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

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Interviews

Russia’s View on Nuclear Arms Control: An Interview With Ambassador Anatoly Antonov


April 2020

Arms Control Today conducted a written interview in early March with Anatoly Antonov, Russian ambassador to the United States on issues including the current status of U.S.-Russian strategic security talks, the future of New START, talks on intermediate-range missile systems, engaging China in arms control, and President Vladimir Putin’s proposal for a summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, then director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department of Security and Disarmament Affairs, speaks at the closing plenary of the New START negotiations on Apr. 9, 2010, one day after the treaty was signed in Prague by the U.S. and Russian presidents. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission, Geneva)Antonov was appointed ambassador to the United States in August 2017. For more than three decades, he has served in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its successor, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he has specialized in the control of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Serving as the ministry’s director for security and disarmament, he headed Russia’s delegation to the 2009 negotiations on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). He was appointed deputy minister of defense in 2011 and deputy minister of foreign affairs in 2016.

Arms Control Today: What issues were discussed in the recent U.S.-Russian strategic security talks in Vienna? When do the two sides plan to meet next? Does Russia find this dialogue on issues affecting strategic stability useful and, if so, why?

Amb. Anatoly Antonov: Russia and the United States are the largest nuclear weapons powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council. They bear a special responsibility for preserving world peace and security. That is why it is crucial to maintain the bilateral strategic stability dialogue at any given circumstance, regardless of political situation. It goes without saying that such engagement should be conducted on a regular basis.

While discussing security issues, one must keep in mind that any conversation, no matter how substantial it might be, should focus on achieving tangible results. Reaching agreements on reducing tensions and mutually acceptable arms control solutions could help meet this goal. The primary task is to rebuild confidence in this area, attempt to preserve treaties that are still in effect, [and] mitigate crisis dynamic.

As for the consultations in January, our reaction can be described as “cautious optimism.” On the bright side is the fact that the meeting did take place, even though it exposed serious disagreements between our countries on a number of topics. Without going into detail, I must note that on many occasions we heard our partners talking about a concept of conducting dialogue within the framework of the so-called great power competition. In our view, such a formula could hardly serve as a foundation for building constructive cooperation on security issues between nuclear powers.

Nonetheless, Russian and American negotiators managed to discuss factors that significantly impact strategic stability (even though our partners somehow prefer the term “strategic security”). In our perspective, they include, above all, deployment of global missile defense, implementation of the “prompt strike” concept, threat of placement of weapons in outer space and designation of space as a “war-fighting domain,” quantitative and qualitative imbalances in conventional arms in Europe, development and deployment of low-yield nuclear warheads, and adoption of new doctrines that lead to lowering the threshold of using nuclear weapons.

In our view, another positive outcome of the renewed Russian-U.S. dialogue on strategic stability was the agreement reached in Vienna on conducting expert group discussions on specific topics, which we have to go over and agree on.

ACT: Do you agree or disagree with the idea that there is ample time to decide whether to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)? From Moscow’s view, when must the presidents of the United States and Russia formally agree on extension of New START to ensure completion of the necessary processes before its expiration date? Is it Russia’s view that the treaty can only be extended once, or can it be extended multiple times totaling up to five years if the two parties decide to pursue that approach?

Is it possible for the Duma to provisionally recognize a joint decision by the two presidents to extend the treaty in order to allow a decision on extension closer to the expiration date?

Antonov: As you have correctly noted, Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly spelled out our stance on New START. On December 5, 2019, he declared our country’s readiness to immediately and unconditionally extend the treaty. Later last year, we officially suggested that Russia and the United States should review the entire set of corresponding issues including the term of the treaty’s possible extension (up to five years).

A Russian defense official shows Russia's 9M729 cruise missile at a facility outside Moscow on Jan. 23, 2019. Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov disputes the U.S. accusation that the missile violated the INF Treaty. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)However, we have yet to get a response. Trump administration representatives keep claiming that “there is still time” since the extension of the treaty in their view can be formalized in a matter of days. These statements are made despite our repeated clarifications that New START’s extension is not a “mere technicality,” but a rather extensive process that requires the Russian side to undertake a series of domestic legislative procedures. I would like to reiterate that as past similar review processes show, it may take several months to complete the New START extension.

Therefore, it is surprising that the U.S. Department of State refused to conduct consultations proposed by the Russian side on legal aspects of potential extension of the treaty. In response, we hear mixed comments (for instance, during the briefing of a “senior State Department official” on March 9, 2020) on the nature of interaction between the executive and legislative branches in Russia.

As for your last question, I would rather not contemplate in a conditional tense. I wish to emphasize: Russia stands ready to reach an agreement on New START’s extension even this very day. However, our goodwill is not enough. It requires U.S. consent, which we have not received yet. Should Washington agree, we will immediately begin implementation of the corresponding domestic procedures.

We hope that the United States will finalize its stance on New START in the nearest future since there is not much time left before the treaty expires in February 2021.

ACT: For nearly a year, the United States has insisted that China be involved in trilateral nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia and the United States. Chinese officials have said, however, that given the disparities between their arsenal and those of the United States and Russia, they are not interested in trilateral arms control talks at this time. Russia has said that if the U.S. side can persuade China to participate, then other nuclear-armed states such as France and the United Kingdom should be involved.

In Russia’s view, which nuclear arms issues and which types of weapons should be part of any bilateral or multilateral follow-on negotiation to New START? Would Russia be willing to engage in negotiations designed to limit or reduce stockpiles of nonstrategic nuclear weapons as well as strategic nuclear weapons? When, in Russia’s view, should any such New START follow-on talks begin?

Antonov: I would like to remind you that our stance on this issue dates back to 2010. We have said more than once that, with the signing of New START, any possibilities for further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms on a bilateral basis are virtually exhausted and that further progress in this area will require involvement of other states with military nuclear capabilities. However, we do not understand why some of our U.S. colleagues talk exclusively about China. Let’s also involve NATO members possessing nuclear weapons, Great Britain and France. In fact, that is what the special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation, Ambassador Jeffrey Eberhardt, suggested in his March interview with your journal, when he said, “we have to move beyond bilateral discussions between ourselves and Russia and bring in other countries.”

We are convinced that cooperation with third countries in developing possible new agreements in this area should be strictly consensus based and pose no threats to legitimate security interests of the parties. Beijing has clearly rejected the idea of being involved in the so-called trilateral agreements on nuclear arms control that you have mentioned. We believe that this “obsession” with the trilateral format can become a serious obstacle to the development of the Russian-U.S. strategic dialogue, in particular, in terms of preserving existing treaties and developing possible new bilateral agreements.

There is no doubt that the Russian-U.S. bilateral arms control agenda remains relevant. We are open to discussing within the strategic dialogue the issue of the newest and prospective weapons that do not fall under New START. However, the conversation on this topic should be conducted in a comprehensive manner, which takes into account interests of both sides.

At the same time, the possible extension of New START would give Russia and the United States an opportunity to discuss the prospects of bilateral and multilateral arms control regimes in the environment of strategic predictability.

ACT: Regarding your proposal to convene a heads-of-state meeting among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, what specifically would be discussed at such a meeting, and what specific outcomes does President Putin think could be achieved and how?

Antonov: Currently we have been conducting preliminary discussion on a possible date and venue for the summit.

The goal of the summit, as stated by Russian President Putin, is to begin a substantial conversation on the fundamental principles of cooperation on the international arena in order to resolve the most pressing issues faced by the global community. A meeting of the leaders of the five permanent members of the Security Council is the most appropriate format for such a dialogue to commence.

We proceed from an understanding that the leaders will discuss the crisis situation in global stability and security, including the erosion of the UN-set foundations of the world order, regional conflicts, fight against international terrorism and transnational organized crime, challenges of migration, and destabilizing technologies. We will not be able to leave out disarmament and arms control issues. We hope that the summit will allow us to identify approaches to solving pressing strategic stability issues.

But it can only be achieved within an interested and mutually respectful dialogue that implies consideration of interests of all sides. Later, other countries can and must join these efforts since only collectively we may solve the global problems of humanity. The summit is our proposal to the international community to step away from confrontational thinking and get behind a productive agenda.

ACT: Would Russia’s proposal for talks on a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range missiles also prohibit Russian deployment of the 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile, which U.S. and NATO officials have charged as an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty)-noncompliant system? Which geographic “environments” does the Russian proposal envision becoming nondeployment zones for these prohibited missiles? How would the parties to the agreement monitor and verify compliance or otherwise share information about the locations and numbers of the prohibited systems? Lastly, is Russia open to considering counterproposals to its initial concept, and with which countries does Russia seek to negotiate such a missile moratorium?

Antonov: Russian President Putin’s message to the heads of the leading countries, including the United States and other NATO members, dated September 18, 2019, states that our country made a voluntary commitment not to deploy ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles in Europe and other regions so long as the United States refrains from doing so. On many occasions, we have called on other countries to support this initiative in order to prevent a new missile arms race, primarily on the European continent.

We believe that a multilateral moratorium in accordance with the Russian proposal will require additional verification measures, especially considering that launchers capable of firing intermediate-range land-based missiles are already deployed in Romania (Poland soon will follow suit). It was clearly proven during the test of a sea-based Tomahawk cruise missile fired from a ground-based Mk41 launcher conducted on August 18, 2019. Should our U.S. and European partners be interested, Russia is ready to work out corresponding technical aspects of the verification regime.

As for 9M729 missiles, the alleged “proof” amassed by the United States and NATO of our systems violating the INF Treaty (while it was in effect) has never been presented either to us or the international community.

Russia stands ready to discuss the issues of intermediate- and shorter-range ground-based missiles with all concerned countries. Our call to adhere to a moratorium, similar to the one already observed by our country, is addressed above all to Washington and its allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

ACT: Regarding the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), what are the main action steps on nuclear disarmament, previously agreed in the 2010 review conference outcome document, or perhaps new steps that Russia will encourage the 10th NPT review conference to support? What specific nuclear risk reduction measures is Russia ready to support in the context of the NPT review conference? [Editor: The 2020 NPT Review Conference will not meet as scheduled, see ACT news article, this issue.]

Antonov: Our stance and priorities in nuclear disarmament have been comprehensively described in the Russian working paper submitted to the second preparatory committee for the 10th NPT review conference. It stipulates a consensus-based incremental approach that implies consistent work on creating the right conditions that help the global community to continue down the path toward nuclear disarmament.

In this regard, we consider the forced development of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (now open for signing) as wrongful. It fails to promote nuclear disarmament, undermines the NPT, and creates additional tensions between its participants. We believe that complete elimination of nuclear weapons is only possible within comprehensive and complete disarmament and under conditions of equal and indivisible security for all, including nuclear states, in accordance with the NPT.

A significant contribution to progress in nuclear disarmament would be made by extending New START and adopting a moratorium on the deployment of ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles by the United States and its allies. An important role in efforts to limit and reduce nuclear weapons is played by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Unfortunately, since the CTBT was opened for signature 20 years ago, the world has still been awaiting its entry into force.

As for nuclear risks, we are working on a joint statement with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war (the United States has failed to respond to Russia’s proposal to do it in a bilateral format). This could in a way become a reconfirmation of the well-known Gorbachev-Reagan formula, this time in a multilateral format.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States discusses strategic security, New START, and other key topics.

Defining U.S. Goals for the NPT: An Interview with U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Eberhardt


March 2020

As the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) marks the 50th anniversary of its entry into force, its parties will gather for the treaty’s 10th review conference in New York, from April 27 to May 22. Ambassador Jeffrey Eberhardt, special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation, will lead the U.S. delegation to the review conference. He spoke with Arms Control Today on February 5 to describe U.S. goals and positions on issues that will likely be contentious at the conference.

Jeffrey Eberhardt is sworn in as special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation In June 2019 by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford. (Photo: U.S. State Department)Arms Control Today: At last year’s NPT preparatory committee meeting, the United States said that “we must recall our predecessors’ accomplishments,…reaffirm our shared commitment to the NPT and the broader nonproliferation regime, and…rededicate ourselves to preserving and strengthening them for future generations.” How does the United States plan to move in that direction?

Jeffrey Eberhardt: On the occasion of the treaty’s 50th anniversary, we really want to focus on our common, shared interests in the treaty. The benefits of the treaty, the effectiveness of the treaty, have been enormous over the years. If you look back to where we were when the treaty entered into force 50 years ago, how many nuclear-weapon states there were, how many potential nuclear-weapon states there were, it was not a good outlook. If you look at the state of the safeguards regime, it was not as strong as it is now. If you look at the ability to share the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, it was not as strong as it is now. Because of the NPT, that strong foundation of nonproliferation norms, that knowledge that your neighbors are not pursuing nuclear weapons programs has first and foremost helped set the conditions for the dramatic reductions that we’ve seen to date, even though initially our arsenals continued to grow.

The aspect that is most overlooked is the tremendous benefits that the world has seen from the spread of nuclear technology, not just in power generation, although this is a tremendous carbon-free power source, but in the areas of medicine and agriculture. The enormous benefit this has had in raising populations out of poverty, improving health, quality of life, would have been unimaginable without the NPT, that sharing of nuclear technology. So this is a great opportunity for us to focus on those benefits, and those benefits are as important today as they were 50 years ago.

ACT: But what are your goals? What would you like to see come out of the review conference?

Eberhardt: I’d like to see a good exchange of views on how people see the treaty being implemented. After all, we are required to review the treaty, that’s what we ought to do. We will have different views on how that has gone—that’s to be expected with a membership as wide and diverse as we have—and we will have a conversation about how we move forward. Again, views will vary, given the membership of the treaty. A robust exchange of views on the treaty, both past and future, would be important.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) in Prague on April 8, 2010. It will not be possible to complete a new nuclear weapons treaty with China before New START's scheduled expiration in one year, according to Amb. Jeffrey Eberhardt, special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)Now, to the extent that can be captured in some kind of a final document remains to be seen. That has always been a daunting task, borne out by the fact that it has only happened twice in the classic sense where you’ve had a consensus review and a consensus forward-looking document, in 1985 and 2000. In other years, there have been various outcomes. In 2010, we had the forward-looking plan, but not the review. In 1995 we had a series of decisions. In 1985, we had a reflection of the various views that everyone agreed by consensus that this accurately reflected the views that were exchanged, even if not all these views command consensus. So there are a range of outcomes that are possible. There could be a simple statement reaffirming our commitment to the NPT as a separate decision. We are also looking at the area of peaceful uses, again one of the more underappreciated aspects of the treaty, and we’re looking at whether we can put together a package on peaceful uses that could be put in the form of a decision at the review conference. So, there are a number of ways to get to success that, as most often has happened in the past, fall short of a classic consensus review and forward-looking document.

ACT: One of the challenges still facing the treaty is the possibility that Iran could enrich uranium well beyond the limits set by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. What does the United States hope the review conference can do about the Iran issue? What message do you think the conference could deliver that could help keep Iran’s capabilities in check?

Eberhardt: Part of this is being played out in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) right now. There are serious questions as to what Iran has done. Iran has never come clean on the weapons program that it was pursuing. So what we want, and I think the president has made this clear, is a deal that ensures that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. Now, we and our European allies may disagree on how best to achieve that. The president has put forward a plan for a pressure campaign to try to bring Iran back to the table. Those things take time. I don’t think it will be resolved by the review conference, to put it mildly, but that’s an issue that we will have to discuss at the conference. It won’t be the first time that we’ve had to discuss Iran at a review conference. That was an issue certainly in 2005, when we talked about potential Iranian noncompliance at the time. Of course, when we’re talking about noncompliance—and I’m not saying Iran is in noncompliance today—as a general matter, when you’re talking about the questionable behavior of a party to a treaty, then it makes getting consensus on a document that much more challenging.

What the conference can say by consensus about this, I have my doubts that we can have a strong statement, but it will certainly be an issue that needs to be raised and debated in the course of the conference. That’s what the review is all about.

ACT: How would you assess U.S. progress so far toward meeting its Article VI obligations to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament?

Eberhardt: The United States has made tremendous progress by making dramatic reductions. We’ve had a whole series of negotiations dealing with nuclear arsenals going back to the days of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. Granted, those limited the rise of arsenals, not cuts. But once we were past the peak, there were a whole series of negotiations to reduce those arsenals, and really that’s what Article VI calls for: good faith negotiations on steps toward nuclear and general disarmament. So, we have done that, and we continue to pursue that. There’s nothing in Article VI that says this must be accomplished in one fell swoop, so I think over the decades, we have shown a tremendous commitment to Article VI, probably more so than any other NPT party.

Going forward, we have launched the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) initiative to talk about how we get there. When I was in Geneva last week at a panel sponsored by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), someone made the claim that he thought the initiative was a distraction. I said, “No, it’s not a distraction, it’s a serious discussion.” It’s all well and good to say we want a nuclear-free world and let’s all get rid of nuclear weapons, but the real question is how we do it. That’s what the CEND initiative is all about: How do we actually get there?

It was far easier to reduce when our stockpiles were fairly enormous and the verification demands weren’t as great. The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) capped U.S. and Soviet, then Russian, arsenals at 6,000 warheads. So if somebody is not quite at 6,000, does cheating on the margins of that treaty matter that much? From the standpoint of credibility of compliance, yes, of course it always matters, but as a militarily significant advantage, not much. But as we go down, the military significance of cheating on the margins becomes more important, and therefore verification becomes more important. So, we have different things to deal with.

As we go lower, we have to move beyond bilateral discussions between ourselves and Russia and bring in other countries. That brings in a whole other set of issues. Why do those other countries have nuclear weapons? The answer is not the same for every country. They have different dynamics they have to deal with, motivations, so if we are going to be serious about moving toward this—the United States is and always has been serious—we have to get at the root causes for why nuclear deterrence remains relevant today, then identify effective measures toward mitigating them to move progress forward. To my mind, the CEND initiative is the personification of Article VI in searching for ways to continue to move the process forward and make progress.

This is something we’ll be talking about at the review conference, both in our national statements and hopefully statements of others. We hope there will be a side event with some of the CEND working group co-chairs to talk about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, where we’re trying to go, and getting the message out as to why we believe this is a serious effort that will go well beyond the review conference. I’ve always said that the review conference, while important, is a milepost, not the finish line, for the CEND initiative. It’s a significant event, obviously, for those CEND members that are members of the NPT, but it’s not driving what we’re doing. This is a long-term process.

ACT: What are some specific outcomes that you see emerging from the CEND initiative as it contributes directly to some of the goals and objectives that have been agreed at previous review conferences regarding Article VI?

Eberhardt: We are hoping to set up another CEND working group meeting between now and the review conference, probably in early April. [Editor's note: After this interview, the meeting was scheduled for April 8–9.] Since the last working group meeting, where we developed concept notes for each of the groups, we have been working with the co-chairs to develop programs of work to address exactly how to get at this problem. We’ve made some good headway in working with the co-chairs. We hope to be at a point soon where the co-chairs can send out some draft programs of work to the broader group for discussion and hopefully its approval and blessing at the next meeting. We have progressively disaggregated this problem. We started with creating the CEND initiative, we have broken that down into some working groups, and those groups then broke those down into specific lines of effort. The programs of work will now take those lines of effort and disaggregate them further, looking at which issues to take first, how do we approach these issues, what outside experience do we want to bring in to provide working papers and briefings, and sort of nail that down.

Hopefully by the end of the April program, we can definitively say the substantive work is now underway on these specific issues.

ACT: Today is February 5, and in 12 months, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is due to expire. Many NPT states-parties, including many U.S. allies, are encouraging the United States and Russia to extend the treaty and engage in follow-on talks. What message do you anticipate bringing to the review conference on the U.S. approach on that and the state of U.S.-Russian discussions on nuclear disarmament?

Eberhardt: As for New START specifically, we have not yet made a final determination on the extension of the treaty, but we still have time left. It doesn’t take much to extend it once you decide to do that. More broadly, we recently had a strategic security dialogue with Russia in Vienna, where we talked about a range of issues.

The president has also talked about going beyond bilateral arms control to trilateral arms control to bring China to the table in some way.

ACT: Is there going to be a proposal on that way before the review conference, because that idea was floated about a year ago?

Eberhardt: I can’t predict when we’ll have something more specific to say about that, but that is clearly where we need to go. If we are going to end the arms race—well, a couple of years ago I would have said the arms race is over, but Russia has been developing some dramatic new systems—and I’m not saying we’re in one now, the United States is certainly not racing, our program of record is what it is, but it is important to ensure that our potential negotiating partners don’t start racing or continue racing.

ACT: Even if China were interested in such a negotiation, is it realistically possible that there’s a new agreement involving China before New START expires?

Eberhardt: A new signed, sealed, delivered agreement? Realistically that’s not possible, but it is possible to have a negotiation underway or agreed to by then. New START took an entire year, these things do take time, but the commitment to negotiate can certainly be achieved by then.

ACT: Some U.S. officials have said the United States should not feel compelled to adhere to the body of commitments made at past review conferences. What is your assessment of that, and is the United States committed to the agreements achieved at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference?

Eberhardt: Previous commitments cast a pretty wide net. I would say that it’s not just some current administration officials have said that. Some previous administration officials have made the same argument: decisions of review conferences, as embodied in final documents, are political commitments. They are taken in the context of the time in which they are achieved.

As for 1995, the extension of the treaty has a treaty-based nexus, so that is in fact a legal commitment because the original treaty called for a review and extension conference in 25 years to determine whether or not to extend the treaty. That is a treaty-based commitment that is distinct from other final document commitments.

The other aspect of 1995 is the resolution on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. The U.S. position remains clear on that: we support the establishment of such a zone if it is freely arrived at among the parties in the region. Our position hasn’t changed on that since 1995. The question is, how do you get there?

It’s a challenge. If you imagine a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and you have a country that is violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), that’s a problem. If you have other countries that haven’t signed up to the CWC, that’s a problem. If you have uncertainty about where Iran is going with its nuclear program, that’s a problem.

You have to address the reasons why such a zone is not achievable today before you can achieve the zone.

There was a UN conference that was established in New York in November, but it doesn’t include the participation of all the key states in the region. Also, if you look at all the nuclear-weapon-free zones that have been negotiated in the world, none of them was negotiated at the United Nations. They were all agreements freely arrived at by the parties to the region. So, we need to find a way for the parties in the region to address all the concerns. We continue to support the goal, but it is not a goal that can be imposed from outside.

ACT: Now that the UN meeting has taken place, do you believe it set back efforts?

Eberhardt: That remains to be seen. It was said at the time the resolution passed the First Committee that this would relieve pressure on the NPT review process. I’m happy to take them at their word, and if they are satisfied with their conference, then this need not be an issue that is addressed at length at the review conference. That would be a very good outcome. We have many more pressing issues to address in New York than the Middle Eastern zone, but we’ll see what happens.

ACT: U.S. officials have said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is inconsistent with the NPT, but many NPT parties have supported it and have argued that it complements the NPT. Will this disagreement be a hurdle to a consensus decision at the review conference?

Eberhardt: It depends on what the advocates of the treaty want to say about it. They have set up a separate treaty with a separate process. I’m perfectly happy for them to discuss that treaty in that process. The TPNW is inconsistent with the NPT in the sense that there is a specific article that says when in conflict with other treaties, the TPNW takes precedence, so that’s a problem. It establishes a standard of verification that is lower than what is commonly accepted in the NPT: a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the additional protocol to that agreement.

Chaja Merk of Extinction Rebellion (left) and Alicia Sanders-Zakre of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) speak at ICAN's Campaign Forum in Paris on Feb. 15. ICAN promotes the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has been signed by 81 states so far, despite U.S. opposition. (Photo: Joe Jukes/ICAN)The TPNW is not an effective measure toward disarmament. This is not an issue that I want to belabor at the review conference, and if no one brings it up, I’ll be happy not to bring it up either. Let’s see how that goes.

ACT: Some NPT parties, such as Saudi Arabia, have not agreed to adopt an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement. What can the review conference do to advance that standard of verification?

Eberhardt: We would certainly like to see language in the final document, assuming there is one, reaffirming that comprehensive safeguards and the additional protocol are the recognized standard for verification of NPT safeguards obligations. That would be a strong affirmation of the fact that the additional protocol is so important, not just for Saudi Arabia but for everyone. It’s something I talked about when I was in Nigeria in December on a workshop on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Comprehensive safeguards and additional protocols are enablers for accessing the benefits of these technologies, and this was well understood and accepted by all participants in the workshop. It was a very gratifying experience.

ACT: What is the U.S. approach to the idea that the review conference might endorse specific nuclear risk reduction steps? For instance, some have urged NPT parties to say in their national statements that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought, the Ronald Reagan-Mikhail Gorbachev formulation from 1985.

Eberhardt: I’m not really sure. I will say that I’m pleased that the discussion around risk reduction has matured. It used to be that all anybody wanted to talk about was reducing operational readiness, de-mating warheads, and various other measures that I think are actually destabilizing. The conversation has become more nuanced now, and people are talking about what exactly do we mean by risk reduction. There are four or five ways, including the reduction of nuclear war, reducing the risk of accidental use, and so on. This is actually one of the areas that the CEND initiative is taking up, and I’m looking forward to how that group develops the concepts and then looks at specific measures that can be taken. It’s still early days, so I can’t point to any specific measures in that. But I am also hopeful that because we’re having these serious discussions in the CEND initiative about risk reduction, that might spur progress elsewhere—perhaps in the process of regular meetings among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the P-5 process—to have a more serious discussion about risk reduction and measures that can be taken. It could be an impetus for that group to have that serious discussion. Russia and China have participated in the CEND initiative up to now; we’ll see how that plays out.

What specific measures might be available at the review conference, I can’t say. The Reagan-Gorbachev statement was of a time when arsenals were fairly enormous. What we are looking at is how can we perhaps come up with new language that is reflective of today’s environment, that gets to that same idea but perhaps in a more practical and realistic way. I don’t have anything to share with you now, but we’ll see how that plays out.

ACT: Argentina has organized a series of regional workshops to prepare for the review conference, after Rafael Grossi was selected as the conference’s presumptive president last year. Grossi became the director-general of the IAEA in December, but his Argentine colleague, Gustavo Zlauvinen, has taken his place. Have those meetings succeeded in expanding the time to prepare for the review conference? Are you comfortable with the organizational preparations for the conference?

Eberhardt: This is not a perfect situation, having to change president-designates midstream. We had already had the problem of getting Grossi named as the president-designate at the last Preparatory Committee meeting. It’s been a challenge, but I was impressed with Zlauvinen when I met him last week. He has a very realistic and measured approach toward executing the office, recognizing the need to take a balanced approach, taking into account all views. I know he intends to carry on the series of regional workshops that Grossi had set up, and those have been useful.

As to the organizational aspects, UNODA has done a great job of assisting throughout this process, so I’m an optimist. I play golf, so by definition I’m an optimist. We’re in good hands with Zlauvinen.

The State Department’s head of delegation to the 2020 NPT Review Conference provides the U.S. perspective on the meeting.

A U.S. Perspective: An Interview With Admiral James Winnefeld (USN, ret.)


January/February 2020

What If New START Expires? Three National Perspectives

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hold documents after signing New START on April 8, 2010. If the treaty expires in one year, the United States would lose its ability to conduct on-the-ground verification in Russia and would have reduced confidence its assessment of Russian nuclear forces. (Photo: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty Images)With the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is now the only remaining arms control agreement limiting at least a portion of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. New START expires on February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents. If the treaty expires without an extension or replacement, there will be no legally binding constraints on the world's two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time in half a century. Although Russia has indicated its support for a clean, unconditional extension, the Trump administration remains officially undecided about whether to extend the treaty and is seeking a more comprehensive arms control agreement that includes more types of Russian weapons as well as China. Arms Control Today sought the views of experts in China, Russia, and the United States to describe today’s situation and look to the future.

A U.S. Perspective: An Interview With Admiral James Winnefeld (USN, ret.)

Arms Control Today: The five most recent U.S. presidents negotiated agreements with Russia to control and reduce both nuclear arsenals, and only President George W. Bush negotiated an agreement that did not contain detailed verification provisions. Do you think arms control still serves an important role in curtailing threats to the United States and its allies?

Admiral James Winnefeld: Properly constructed arms control agreements serve several important purposes. The principal reason for limiting the number and type of nuclear arms and delivery vehicles in a mutually balanced and adequately transparent manner is to maintain strategic stability, which lowers the likelihood that one nation believes it could win a nuclear war. Second, all other safeguards considered, fewer nuclear weapons reduces the likelihood of accidents or proliferation. Finally, fewer strategic systems allows smaller national expenditures to defend the nation’s most vital interest, which frees those resources for other purposes.

ACT: Do you support extending New START for five years, as allowed by the treaty?

Adm. James Winnefeld, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2015. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)Winnefeld: Extending New START will bolster U.S. security while future arms control arrangements are negotiated. New START is not perfect. No treaty ever is or will be, but this treaty has served the principal purpose of arms control: maintaining strategic stability. I applaud the administration’s desire for a new treaty that would account for recent Russian activity, but it would be difficult to negotiate such a treaty today given the prevailing geopolitical environment and the U.S. and Russian domestic political environments. Extending the treaty could provide a window of opportunity in which those environments could evolve and set the conditions for a successful negotiation. It would be better for both sides to negotiate such a treaty from an existing baseline rather than in a vacuum, and we have little to lose by extending it.

To be sure, crafting a new treaty will be difficult. The U.S. team will need to negotiate from a position of strength and avoid a tendency to reveal its bottom line early or negotiate with itself. After all, a bad treaty is worse than no treaty at all. Both sides will have to account for changes that have occurred since New START was ratified, including advances made by Russia in systems not covered by the existing treaty, such as hypersonic weapons and new types of undersea weapons. The United States will need to continue developing ballistic missile defenses to counter North Korean and Iranian threats, but this remains a major irritant for Russia and is what probably stimulated their development of unorthodox systems. Russia will resist the solid verification measures needed to preclude their tendency to cheat, but just because talks will be difficult does not mean we should not try, as long as the U.S. side can maintain the discipline to negotiate a treaty that serves our nation’s interests well.

ACT: Why has the U.S. military been a strong proponent of strategic arms control, including New START? What is it about strategic offensive armaments that have led the United States and Russia, through the ups and downs in the political relationship, to continue to pursue limits on these weapons? If we have less visibility into Russia's nuclear capabilities, their force structure, and their modernization plans, which would be the case without New START, what impact could that have on U.S. military planning and spending?

Winnefeld: The U.S. military fully recognizes the benefits of well-constructed arms control treaties, for all the reasons outlined above. Moreover, the predictability provided by these treaties permits more stable defense planning, especially in an era in which defense budgets are highly unstable. Although a future treaty negotiation will be shaped by the nation’s strategic force modernization plans, the reverse is also true. For example, New START limited the number of sea-based ballistic missile launch tubes, which required the United States to decommission some existing launchers in its submarines. This limit clearly guided plans for the next generation of U.S. submarines. An absence of boundaries and transparency over Russia’s program development could lead to program disruption when a response is required by an unanticipated change in the trajectory of Russian strategic systems development.

ACT: Is there any way to replace the information gained through the “boots on the ground” inspections provided by New START if the treaty disappears? If we lose the New START verification regime, would the Pentagon and the intelligence community have to spend more on national technical means of verification to make up for this loss?

Winnefeld: Sadly, unlike the U.S. security culture of strict compliance with treaties, Russian security culture permits and perhaps encourages getting away with anything they can. It is why the Russian side always resists verification measures, which underscores the importance of verification. High-confidence arms control verification requires a multifaceted approach in which actual visits on the ground augment other measures, technical and nontechnical. These other means are no doubt how the United States discovered Russia’s plain violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eventually caused the United States to withdraw from the treaty after two successive administrations tried to bring Russia back into compliance. Loss of an on-the-ground verification regime might not cause the Pentagon and intelligence community to spend additional money on other means of verification, but it would stress existing means and lower U.S. confidence in Russian compliance.

ACT: With respect to the administration's desire to bring China into the arms control process, China has stated repeatedly that it is not interested in entering negotiations on a multilateral agreement, citing the large disparity between the size of the Chinese arsenal and the arsenals of the United States and Russia. Do you think it is possible to negotiate an agreement to limit China's nuclear forces before New START expires in February 2021? Would extending New START buy time to engage Russia and China on a more comprehensive arms control approach? Short of limiting China's nuclear forces, what are some practical steps the United States could pursue to bring China into the arms control process?

Winnefeld: It is relatively easy to predict the motions of two celestial bodies as governed by gravitational forces. Predicting the motion of three bodies, however, involves heretofore unsolvable differential equations, the so-called three-body problem. Similarly, bringing a third party into an arms control negotiation dramatically raises the already high level of complexity of reaching a bilateral agreement, especially if one party is reluctant to participate. Meanwhile, it is difficult to imagine circumstances that would make it possible to negotiate a bilateral agreement with China before 2021, especially given other ongoing tensions, such as trade disputes. That said, every effort should be made to explore how a negotiation, whether bilateral or trilateral, might work and to encourage it. This would be probably best initiated by Track 2 discussions to lower the political risk of setting prematurely high expectations.

New START is a stabilizing force that should be extended while future arms control options are explored.

The 2020 NPT Review Conference Starts Now: An Interview with Argentine Diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi


June 2019

The 10th review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty will begin April 27, 2020, just weeks after the 50th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force. Held every five years, the review conferences offer the treaty’s members a formal opportunity to assess the treaty’s implementation and its states-parties compliance. The conferences provide an opportunity to discuss and seek agreement on steps to advance common goals and objectives related to the three pillars of the agreement, which involve the interconnected obligations of states-parties on nuclear nonproliferation, peaceful uses, and disarmament.

Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi will serve as president of the 2020 NPT Review Conference. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)NPT states-parties convened at the United Nations from April 29 to May 10 for the final preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 review conference. They agreed by an unusual mechanism to designate veteran Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi as president of the review conference, effective in the last quarter of 2019. The decision empowers Grossi to begin immediate consultations with NPT member states to prepare for the potentially contentious review conference. Grossi is Argentina’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, where he previously served as assistant director-general for policy.

The ambassador spoke with Arms Control Today on Thursday, May 9 at UN headquarters to describe his plans for the next year.

Arms Control Today: What is the value of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and its review process, and is the 2020 review conference more important because it marks the 50th anniversary of the treaty’s entry into force?

Rafael Mariano Grossi: The treaty is the most important piece of international law that we have had regulating the nuclear order for the past 50 years. The importance of this treaty cannot be overstated.

For me, the review process is an interesting feature of the treaty. It is rare in international law to have treaties reviewed in this thorough way, where the element of accountability enters into play.

The reviews are not always easy because every review is a result of circumstance and circumstances change with time, so what meant something at some point in time might have changed. There are different provisions in any piece of international law, some that are more permanent, and some others, including some in the NPT, that have been maybe superseded with time. For example, the NPT includes references to peaceful nuclear explosions, things that with time fell nicely with no conflict into oblivion because of their anachronistic nature.

But other provisions remain relevant, and in this sense, it is important to have this review. The review process itself is also subject to discussion.

As for the 50-year milestone, anniversaries can have a meaning for some people. For me, as in human life, they are a good opportunity to take stock. In this case, 50 years is a sizable chunk of time where you can assess the impact of the instrument on international life and maybe position it toward the future.

ACT: The preparatory committee has agreed with your selection as president of the 2020 review conference. What is your diplomatic game plan in the lead-up to the review conference? How will you engage key states in the coming months?

Grossi: For me, the review conference starts next Monday [May 13]. Until tomorrow, we are busy with the [preparatory committee]. But as of Monday, we need to start preparing for the review conference.

I plan an initiative that is commensurate with the gravity of the times. It is necessary to have a very thorough process. It is necessary for me and for states-parties to have an opportunity to discuss outside the limits of the formal meeting what is possible and what is feasible, and this requires time and effort.

I have announced a very ambitious program of regional conferences, consultations, workshops, and symposiums. The names of the meetings don’t matter too much; these are opportunities to meet and discuss the NPT in different forms and configurations. It has never been done before. I’m planning to have at least eight or nine of these, apart from the bilateral meetings that are always expected from the president to have with the P5 [the five recognized nuclear-weapon states under the NPT] and others.

There will be an effort on peaceful uses, a topic which I believe has been if not marginalized, then less looked into. It is area that means a lot for the vast majority of the membership. Of course, we are going to be discussing disarmament and nonproliferation too.

What starts now is a very intensive phase in the lead-up to the conference, which made it so important to confirm my review conference presidency. Now this is done, so I can start working and engaging countries with the necessary authority.

ACT: Can you describe your planned meetings in more detail?

Grossi: There are few things that are new in the process. The first is that I will have a bigger, larger, more inclusive table than we have seen before. I mean by this that I will be inviting technical support organizations, national regulators, scientists and technologists, and nuclear power plant operators. I will be inviting people that are active in nuclear applications in all these countries.

Why? Simply because I feel that discussions around the NPT have been limited to diplomats like me or practitioners in nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy. This is very important and will continue, but we were missing voices from the discussion, those who at the end of the day are benefiting from the system, from the framework, from the modus vivendi that the NPT has set up.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford is leading the U.S. initiative "Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament." The initiative is based on the U.S. premise that global security concerns are preventing nuclear-armed nations from reducing their arsenals.  Washington will host the first working group meeting of the initiative in July. (Photo: Paul Morigi/CEIP)I see value in having this conversation, which has political significance. These people may be part of national delegations, and they should have a say in the sort of commitments, in the sort of compromise building that I am trying to strengthen at this moment. Later on will be a time for diplomatic negotiations and small groups and draftings and all of that, but you have to prepare the ground for that by trying to have this sort of wider conversation.

Another thing that will be new is a strong emphasis on reaching out, going out in the field. Meeting only in the UN hub cities of Vienna, New York, and Geneva give us a limited perspective of things. When we talk about proliferation or disarmament or how we use nuclear science technology or energy, it’s very different to have this discussion in North Africa or in Southeast Asia or in Central America than to have it here in New York. When you leave those hubs, everything changes, perspectives change, opinions change.

We are planning to have at least two conferences in Asia, three in Africa, at least two in Latin America, and maybe one or two for the Middle East, on top of the traditional meetings. This will be a very extensive exercise of preparation and consultation, which is badly needed.

Yet another new thing that I’m going to have is a cross-regional presence. When we go to Asia, I will have Africans and Europeans or Latin Americans coming as well, and vice versa. By showcasing lessons learned and successful partnerships, I want to demonstrate examples of things that can reinforce nonproliferation or show how things can be done in a way that is nonproliferation friendly.

ACT: How would you define a successful review conference? Is the ultimate goal to reach agreement on a final statement and an agreement on a forward-looking plan, or are there other possible outcomes, for example a high-level segment statement?1

Grossi: Apart from my personal preferences aSwedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom announced at the preparatory committee that Sweden will host a June 11 ministerial meeting to discuss moving toward nuclear disarmament with a stepping-stone approach. (Photo: Jussi Nukari/AFP/Getty Images)nd inclinations, we have a mandate to conduct a full review, and this is what I’m going to do. I’m aware of viewpoints and analyses, some of them very interesting, that suggest that it would be better for me to try to cut corners and save ourselves the aggravation of discussions that some consider pointless by trying to go straight for a minimalistic sort of outcome: We agree to disagree, then go home.

I disagree completely with this. This is not the mandate; the mandate is different. What one has to strive for is to have a full review and an agreed document. This is what this is all about: agreement. That being said, the dynamic of a diplomatic negotiation may take you in directions that may be different, and I would never exclude those possibilities.

There is the example of the 1995 review and extension conference, where a set of important decisions were taken.2 Frankly speaking, few know that there was no final document. People didn’t care in the end because the weight of these decisions was so great and the significance for the treaty and the package of decisions arrived at as a whole was so important. In the end, there was very little time to finalize a final document, and no one was shedding a tear about it.

So, the aim is to have a full review but, of course, with the disposition to explore possibilities that may lend themselves to good agreement among states.

You mentioned a high-level segment. Let me say that I don’t believe in segments for this type of conference. This is more appropriate for other types of conferences, like ones that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been conducting on nuclear applications or nuclear security.

In this case, the presence and support of high-level leaders, heads of state, for example, is what you need. If you talk about a segment, you are bureaucratizing something that I don’t think is appropriate in the case of the 50th anniversary of the NPT. Starting with the P5 and others, I have begun asking them to try and persuade their political authorities at the highest possible level to come to the review conference and use their presence to show the importance they all attach to the NPT. We need the visibility brought by the presence of those who believe that this treaty is not something of the past, that this treaty is not an obsolete thing, but rather something that is worth sustaining and protecting.

When asked how I define success, normally I say that I don’t like the question. I don’t like this exercise because it presupposes a defeatist state of mind. It’s like I’m going to play tennis with Roger Federer and I ask, How do we define success? Maybe if I get a point against him, I can consider this a win? No, I think it shows a defensive attitude that presupposes success is going to be almost impossible. Some might say, for example, that if we agree to disagree, but we’re civil, we don’t throw rotten tomatoes at each other, that can be success. No.

A successful outcome is something that might be difficult to define, but when you see it, you will recognize it. You will know that it is something that has strengthened the treaty as opposed to questioning it, challenging it, or diminishing it. That’s success for me.

ACT: If the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is terminated as expected and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is not extended or replaced before the review conference, do you expect that states will accuse the United States and Russia of noncompliance with their NPT-related disarmament commitments?

Grossi: With issues of state policy, we need to be careful about making assumptions of things that may or may not be there in 11 months. I think that some of these processes are quite open, initiatives are being mentioned in this area, and final policy decisions have not been made in some of them. To me, to pass judgment at this point is not a good idea because what we are going to be able to say will be a function of a circumstance and the circumstance may be different a year from now.

ACT: Do you see the deteriorating situation around the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), threatening to hijack other business at the review conference? How might states-parties respond to the possibility that Iran could pull out of the JCPOA and even
the NPT?

Grossi: That would have a huge impact, of course. The so-called regional, or nonproliferation, cases or crises, however we wish to describe them, always influence discussions a lot. But it is too soon to assess them, again because situations can change. In 2016, for example, you would have had a very good or a relatively optimistic atmosphere on the JCPOA and a pessimistic one on North Korea perhaps. Now how do you see it? It’s different, isn’t it? In 2018, it would have been less positive with the JCPOA, better with North Korea. Now, it’s a bit uncertain with North Korea, but still with some hope, and the JCPOA seems to be suddenly deteriorating. In just two-and-a-half years, it’s been a bit kaleidoscopic the way in which each of these individual, singular situations have presented themselves in front of our eyes. So to start speculating about these things is to me a bit pointless, but we will, of course, be monitoring each and every one of those. They will very much be part of the debates.

ACT: How can you move forward the difficult debate on the zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, which has been a goal that NPT state-parties committed to try to advance beginning with the outcome of the 1995 review and extension conference? What are the main issues that need to be settled, and who needs to be involved in sorting them out?

Grossi: There are some new elements here, the first being the UN General Assembly decision to have a conference on the Middle East, which will take place November 18–22 here in New York.3 I have started consultations with the Arab Group and also with the presidency of that conference to indicate my disposition to listen and to prepare to establish the appropriate relationship between the November meeting and the NPT review conference. Some will believe there is no relation, others will pretend there must be a cause-and-effect relationship between them. What is clear, though, is that an ongoing, specific process does not mean the NPT review conference’s involvement has disappeared. On the contrary, just because you have another, specific process does not mean that we can say we have been unburdened from this responsibility. This is going to be a mutually reinforcing or otherwise process.

In terms of who participates, there is an internationally established definition of what countries are in the Middle East that comes from a listing agreed in Vienna, which includes a number of countries including Israel and Iran. It will be up to those organizing this conference to issue the invitations—I don’t think this has been done yet—and also the P5, of course, and agencies including the IAEA, probably the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, maybe the European Atomic Energy Community. This would be the first ring, I suppose, of participants in that exercise, but of course it is the sovereign decision of those who are organizing
this effort.

ACT: How will you work to bridge divides on disarmament progress while still achieving a meaningful outcome?

Grossi: The first, perhaps more obvious role that I can see for the president of the NPT review conference is to remind everyone that there are expectations and obligations when it comes to disarmament. Again, to cite my example of success, you cannot have success without appropriate visions and decisions on disarmament. So, my role perhaps is to be a constant reminder to the powers that be that the mix indeed requires tangible, credible elements when it comes to disarmament. We do have a number of those described at previous conferences and other gatherings and meetings that may form the basis for that.

As I said in the beginning, the review is the result of circumstance. The review is not the treaty. What we need to have is the ability to extract from certain countries the willingness to do certain things.

I don’t intend to conduct a review of past reviews, even though there is always the temptation to do that. I don’t want to have an accountant’s approach to the review. We need to discuss these issues, but many of those commitments may have changed or might even require certain alterations when you look at the technical parts that are included. I would not like to tackle this review with a document in one hand and looking at countries A, B, and C and telling them, “Fifth line, you haven’t…; sixth line, you haven’t…; seventh line, you are ok.” That’s an accountant’s approach, and that’s not what we are required to do.

Of course, we will keep everything in mind, nothing is forgotten, nothing is hidden under the table, but the discussion must be efficient. The accountant may be right, but if you have the wrong conversation, you are wrong in the end.

ACT: There are some new disarmament-related proposals in the NPT context, including the new U.S. initiative titled “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament.”4 Do you see NPT states-parties agreeing with the premise of this initiative? How will you take this into account in your consultations leading up to the review conference?

Grossi: I welcome this initiative. Everyone should welcome any initiative that has the objective of nuclear disarmament as a goal. I’ve seen the introductory notes and documents on the U.S. initiative, but I understand it is still a work in progress and the United States intends to have a process where working groups will be set up and a systematic discussion will take place.

I welcome that, much as I welcome any other disarmament-oriented initiative in the run-up to the conference. These are all elements that are bringing material that we can use. This is the clay that we are going to be using in 2020 to shape the consensus that we are going to strive for. To take an a priori approach to a particular initiative would be wrong.

ACT: The United States has apparently sent out a hold-the-date note for an early July meeting of the working group on the U.S. initiative to be held in Washington. There’s also a June 11 convocation of foreign ministers that Sweden has organized,5 so how do these fit into your overall game plan?

Grossi: My understanding is that the Swedish initiative is more oriented toward demonstrating high-level political support for disarmament. I see these as potentially complementary initiatives. As I understand it, the process on the U.S. initiative is meant to be a holistic discussion aimed at nuclear disarmament, whereas the Swedish initiative intends to look at ways in which high-level political support can be garnered and shored up with the 2020 review conference.

ACT: Another disarmament issue that will likely come up at the review conference is the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)6. How will you seek to reconcile the views of states that believe the TPNW reinforces the NPT with those that say it creates a norm that is contrary to the NPT?

Grossi: There won’t be unanimity, and this is something we need to be very clear on. The NPT is a family of 190 countries, so such an impressive membership tells you immediately that it will be impossible to have a unanimous view on the TPNW approach. The TPNW is a very interesting new element in the disarmament landscape. It embodies a humanitarian approach, but many countries that have subscribed to this approach have not subscribed to the TPNW. To make these amalgamations is an exercise I would caution against. The humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, or any weapons of mass destruction for that matter, is very important, but try to channel that into one or the other instrument is something that is going to be nonconducive to progress because we will clash with hard national interests and the whole purpose of something as noble as the humanitarian awareness may be lost.

All these elements are an array of instruments, principles, and ideas that we will have to put together in the mixer and see what we can take out of them. To try and impose on a multipolar community a specific channel is not the best. I wouldn’t say it’s wrong, it’s just not the best approach.

It’s pointless to engage in a discussion whether there is complementarity between two instruments. Those who have subscribed to the norm, of course they will say that there is complementarity, otherwise they would not have done this. For others is the complete opposite. Other countries may be waiting, others may be assessing. My country is assessing, for example. Others have assessed already and have come to an opinion about it. But to try to corral countries is not conducive. This is about the NPT, and we need to care for it.

ACT: How can civil society contribute to a successful 2020 review conference?

Grossi: I’m very keen on having a number of discussions that are necessary with something like the NPT. One is, of course, with civil society. I had a first meeting with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) yesterday here in New York, and I intend to continue in that. There are lots of good ideas there. I am also hoping to have a better format for NGO interaction with delegations come 2020.

There is also the gender discussion, which is very close to my heart. There is a vast area there where improvements can be made, can be done, resulting in better diplomatic results. I think it is proven that an improved, balanced representation in delegations leads to better processes and better outcomes as well. It’s not only a matter of human justice, but also efficiency in the way we do business. We must include youth groups as well, and I am considering this. A good example already exists with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Youth Group; new generations are of the essence. At the end of the day, we do this for them, we want a better world for them.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Some diplomatic meetings have featured short portions in which high-level national representatives, typically ministers or heads
of state, address the participants and then depart to allow working-level officials to conduct the meeting.

2. Participants of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference agreed to extend the treaty indefinitely and to a strengthened review process and a series of forward-looking principles and objectives on nonproliferation and disarmament.

3. In 2018, the UN General Assembly First Committee adopted a resolution introduced by Egypt on behalf of the Arab League for the UN secretary-general to convene a conference on taking forward a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East in 2019 and every year thereafter until a zone is achieved. Israel, Micronesia, and the United States voted against the resolution, and 71 countries abstained.

4. At the 2019 preparatory committee meeting, the United States described the initiative as “a new dialogue exploring ways to ameliorate conditions in the security environment that impede progress toward a future safely and sustainably free of nuclear weapons.” See Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, "Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament (CCND): Working Paper Submitted by the United States of America," NPT/CONF.2020/PC.II/WP.30, April 18, 2018; Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, "Operationalizing the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND) Initiative: Working Paper Submitted by the United States of America," NPT/CONF.2020/PC.III/WP.43, April 26, 2019.

5. Swedish Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom announced the meeting to the preparatory committee on April 30, 2019. “Speech by Margot Wallström at the NPT Preparatory Committee in New York,” April 30, 2019, https://www.government.se/speeches/20192/05/speech-by-margot-wallstrom-at-the-npt-the-preparatory-committee-in-new-york/.

6. Opened for signature in September 2017, the TPNW bans the use, threat of use, development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, transfer, stationing, or installation of nuclear weapons. Its supporters argue that it reinforces states' commitments to the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. To date, the treaty has been signed by 70 nations, ratified by 23, and needs 50 ratifications to enter into force.

Arms Control Today interviews Argentine diplomat Rafael Mariano Grossi to learn his plans to prepare for the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

An Interview with Rep. Brad Sherman: Strengthen Oversight of U.S. Nuclear Trade


April 2019

In a March 7 interview with Arms Control Today, U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, describes his efforts to bolster congressional oversight of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation with other nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, to ensure that sensitive nuclear technologies and nuclear materials are not diverted for weapons programs.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) speaks to constituents at a 2016 town hall meeting. He has introduced legislation to increase congressional oversight of U.S. nuclear technology transfers. (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)First elected to the House in 1996, Sherman became chairman of the subcommittee in January 2019. It oversees the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements that must be negotiated before a foreign country can receive U.S. nuclear technology. These agreements are called “123 agreements” after the section of the Atomic Energy Act that mandates adherence to several nonproliferation criteria to enable fast-track congressional review. Some technology recipients, such as Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates, have exceeded these criteria by agreeing to the so-called gold standard of 123 agreements, in which they have pledged to abstain from enriching uranium or separating plutonium and to adopt an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

By law, 123 agreements take effect 90 days after they are submitted to Congress unless it objects. In light of growing concerns about Saudi Arabia’s interest in dual-use nuclear technology and statements by senior Saudi officials that they may consider developing nuclear weapons if Iran does, Sherman has introduced legislation that would require Congress to approve any Saudi 123 agreement.

Arms Control Today: What is the appropriate role for Congress in overseeing U.S. nuclear commerce?

Sherman: You mention the word “commerce.” It appears in Article I of the Constitution, which establishes the Congress and empowers it to regulate commerce with foreign nations. We
have seen a process over the last 60
years of power being vested in the executive branch that would have appalled the founders.

The proper role is twofold: First, for Congress to make it plain that when a country has a nuclear energy program and does not have a 123 agreement with the United States, the United States will treat it like North Korea and Iran, which are both hostile powers that pursued nuclear programs without 123 agreements with the United States. The second thing is that a 123 agreement needs to be approved by Congress, and where we are concerned about proliferation, Congress should always insist that a nation receiving U.S. nuclear technology adopt the gold standard with an additional protocol [to its IAEA safeguards agreement].

ACT: Are you concerned about Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and its possible interest in making its own nuclear fuel? How should this affect the U.S. approach to negotiating a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Riyadh?

Sherman: First, we have to question the economics of Saudi Arabia having a nuclear program to generate electricity when it’s a country that has so much natural gas. The economics would say the last place that you would put a nuclear plant to generate electricity, the last place in the world, would be in a place like Saudi Arabia, which has lots of sun for solar [power] and lots of natural gas.

Workers extract gold from Saudi Arabia's al-Amar mine. Saudi Arabia is currently assessing "uranium resources that can be used to produce nuclear fuel for future national power reactors and for uranium international market," according to the nation's nuclear agency. (Photo: Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images)Second, Saudi Arabia has broadly hinted that it wants to keep up with the Joneses, or in this case the ayatollahs, when it comes to a nuclear program. We know that the Iranian program is not merely for electricity, and Saudi Arabia wants to be just like the Iranians. So, I think they’ve told us why they want to have a nuclear program: they want to master the fuel cycle, they want to position themselves so that they can develop a nuclear weapon. And if there’s a government that you can’t trust with a bone saw, you shouldn’t trust it with nuclear weapons. We don’t need more nuclear powers in the world. We certainly don’t need any more in the Middle East.

Even if they’re going to have nuclear power generation, they don’t need to control the whole fuel cycle. You know, I eat sandwiches, but I don’t slaughter the cows, I just buy what I eat. So, we have to ask, Why do they want to have reprocessing? Why do they want to
have enrichment?

Also, we have to ask if Saudi Arabia wants to have a peaceful nuclear program, why isn’t it interested in an additional protocol? What does it have to hide?

ACT: What is your sense of the status of the negotiations between the United States and Saudi Arabia at this stage, and has the administration been keeping Congress apprised of the talks?

Sherman: Many times, the executive branch has honored in the breach its obligation to keep Congress informed. It isn’t shocking that this administration is even less faithful to such requirements than other administrations. That’s why we need a statute that says, “Negotiate what you’re going to negotiate, show it to us, and we’ll vote it up or down.”

ACT: Could rigorous U.S. nonproliferation standards drive Saudi Arabia to other suppliers?

Sherman: First, it’s not clear what the United States would get as far as jobs even if this program went forward. It looks like it would simply be a matter of licensing U.S. technology to South Korea. So, the upside to the United States is modest.

Second, if Saudi Arabia wants to go full speed ahead—without a 123 agreement, without an additional protocol, without the gold standard—if it wants to imitate Iran, then we have to duplicate for Riyadh what we’ve given to Tehran, which has not been good for the Iranian economy. If they want to act like Iran, we have to treat them like they’re acting like Iran.

Saudi Arabia has to understand that its entire relationship with the United States is at stake. It can’t say, “We’ve got oil, we’ve got money, we’re going to have a giant nuclear weapons program, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.” No. If they want to act like Iran, fine. We can play that game stronger with Saudi Arabia than we did with Iran, and by the way, it was pretty strong with Iran.

ACT: If the Trump administration presents Congress with a Saudi Arabian 123 agreement with inadequate nonproliferation safeguards, what steps could Congress take to condition any approval of the agreement?

Sherman: Congress is in a weak legal position. We have abrogated and punted to the point where the president at least believes that he can build a wall with funds that we appropriated for other purposes.

So that’s why I have introduced legislation with Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Representative Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) to increase congressional oversight over any 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia. The president could veto this bill that has bipartisan support, but he would be vetoing a bill that has Rubio and Sherman as its chief proponents, and there’s no other legislation with such a broad coalition.

If the president submits a bad 123 agreement, Congress could pass resolutions of disapproval, they could be passed by both houses, but he could veto those. We have a lot of Republican support for the idea that we do not want a Saudi nuclear weapons program, there’s a good possibility that a veto could be overridden.

ACT: What other steps can you take if your oversight bill does not succeed?

Sherman: In part, we would continue to focus on public awareness. Even if no statute is enacted, presidents tend not to do things that the bulk of the interested public thinks are just plain wrong. I don’t need a poll to tell me that Americans do not want Saudi Arabia to have nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

Also, if Saudi Arabia pursues its nuclear ambitions without a 123 agreement, we would move to limit or prevent any future arms transfers to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is now treated like an ally, but it can’t act like Iran and be an ally of the United States.

ACT: What are the implications of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s interim staff report on the White House push for nuclear commerce with Saudi Arabia?

Sherman: It just illustrates that there are many reasons why the administration might make a mistake, and it would be a mistake to green-light an inadequately safeguarded nuclear program in Saudi Arabia.

You have two possible corrupting influences on the decision-making processes. One relates to the IP3 firm with [former National Security Advisor Michael] Flynn. The other influence is with [senior adviser to the president Jared] Kushner, Brookfield Asset Management, and its involvement with [the Kushner family-owned building at] 666 5th Avenue, and Brookfield’s involvement with the Westinghouse nuclear company. Again, we have to understand that Westinghouse has technology that can be licensed. That doesn’t mean there are any jobs in this for the United States. Well, perhaps a few jobs for lawyers.

ACT: In the past, you have co-sponsored legislation to require 123 agreements to meet the gold standard in order to qualify for fast-track approval. Why is such a reform necessary?

Sherman: The discussion of Saudi Arabia is not the last time that we are going to be concerned about a country developing nuclear weapons while claiming that its focus is the generation of electricity, so Congress needs to be involved and evaluate any agreement that doesn’t meet the gold standard. Today, congressional involvement is too limited and the standards in the Atomic Energy Act are too minimal. So, we need to ensure that if an administration wants a fast track, it must negotiate a 123 agreement that includes the gold standard and an additional protocol.

Representative Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) discusses congressional oversight of U.S. nuclear commerce and his concerns about providing U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

‘Nothing Endangers the Planet More Than Nuclear Weapons’


December 2018

With the shift in control of the U.S. House of Representatives next month following the November midterm elections, Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is in line to become chairman of the Armed Services Committee. In that powerful post, he will give Democrats renewed influence over key defense-related developments and bring renewed scrutiny of key programs, including nuclear weapons procurement and policies.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, questions witnesses during a defense budget hearing April 12. Smith is in line to become committee chairman in January, when control of the House of Representatives flips to the Democrats. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)In an interview with Arms Control Today, Smith said he plans to question the need and affordability of elements of the Trump administration’s approach toward nuclear weapons and press for greater diplomatic engagement to avert an accelerating arms race with Russia and China. He opposes U.S. plans for two new, low-yield nuclear capabilities, envisioned as a counter to Russia, that he said will do little to enhance nuclear deterrence and make the country safer. A better course, he says, includes undertaking renewed efforts with Russia to maintain the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) beyond its February 2021 expiration date. This transcript has been edited for length
and clarity.

What are the top two or three steps you think should be taken to enhance oversight of the administration's approach toward nuclear weapons?

It is really a matter of taking another look at the Nuclear Posture Review [NPR]. What we want to do is to drill down, firstly, on the costs. Exactly what is this going to cost us, and how does that balance out against our other national security needs, and then, what's the strategy behind this? Why do we need so many nuclear weapons? Ultimately, what I want to do is see a shift to a deterrence strategy. I think the oversight will come to having an explanation for why do you think we need this many delivery platforms? Why do we need the triad? Why do we need over 4,000 nuclear weapons? I think that is the discussion that most members of Congress have not been privy to, and having seen it myself, I don't buy the explanations, and I don't think it is the correct course.

A key element of the Trump administration's NPR report was the call to develop two new, low-yield nuclear capabilities for the sea-based leg of the triad—in the near term, a low-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead option and, in the longer term, a new sea-launched cruise missile. Would these enhance deterrence, or could they lower the nuclear threshold and increase the risk of miscalculation?

I think it lowers the nuclear threshold and increases the risk of miscalculation. I think it increases the risk that people will see nuclear weapons as simply another weapon in their arsenal of conflict, and when you start talking about low-yield nuclear weapons, you contemplate uses other than for deterrence.

Now, the argument that the administration will make is, well, if Russia has low-yield nuclear weapons, we have to counterbalance it. My view is that we have to say that there is no such thing as an acceptable use of a nuclear weapon and that we will counter it with whatever nuclear weapons we have. When you go the low-yield route, you increase the number of weapons, you increase the risk for people thinking that they can use them in a tactical way. They do not enhance our ability to deter our adversaries, so I'm opposed to low-yield nuclear weapons. I think that speeds up an arms race that is very, very dangerous.

Do you know whether the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, as the NPR report claims, that Russia or China might believe the United States would be self-deterred from using current weapons in response to, say, limited Russian or Chinese nuclear use?

It's just speculation. I have not seen any in-depth study on that question. This is why the other big part, of course, is to maintain an open dialogue with our fellow nuclear powers China and Russia. It is our responsibility as global powers to make sure that nuclear weapons are never used, and we need to have consistent dialogue on how to avoid that.

Whatever other differences we might have, I want to see a consistent dialogue on nuclear weapons. It is something that President Ronald Reagan understood. He was obviously for peace through strength. He wanted to build up a strong military, but he was also instrumental in negotiating arms reduction treaties where nuclear weapons were concerned, precisely because he understood the risk that nuclear weapons pose.

The Congressional Budget Office projected last year that the Obama administration's plans to sustain and upgrade the nuclear arsenal would cost $1.2 trillion without adjusting for inflation. The Trump administration's proposals would add to the cost. Do you believe that is realistic and affordable?

I do not. I think that is the biggest challenge that we face within our national security budget. Every single branch says it doesn’t have enough, that we need more, and yet we don't have the money to do that. We need to reconfigure a national security strategy that would better reflect both our resources and our true national security needs.

Nuclear weapons are a great example of where we could save money and still maintain our national security interests. A deterrent strategy is what's going to help us the most, and we could do that for a heck of a lot less money than is currently being spent. We could meet our needs from a national security standpoint with a lot fewer nuclear weapons. The path we're going down now is certainly unsustainable from a fiscal standpoint, and it doesn't make us safer.

You noted we can get the deterrence we need with fewer nuclear weapons. What might be the options to maintain the nuclear arsenal that would be more cost effective while still providing for a strong deterrent?

Build fewer of them. We can calculate what we need the weapons for in order to deter our adversaries, and there's a compelling argument to be made that a submarine-based nuclear weapons approach alone gives us an adequate deterrent. But we can certainly simply build fewer weapons to meet our national security needs. It's not really that complicated.

I know you're familiar with the plan to develop a new fleet of nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missiles, known as the long-range standoff [LRSO] system, that the Air Force says is needed to ensure that the air leg of the nuclear triad can continue to penetrate the most advanced air defenses well into the future. Critics argue that retaining such cruise missiles is redundant, given current plans to build the stealth B-21 long-range bomber and upgraded nuclear B61 gravity bomb. Do air-launched cruise missiles bring a unique contribution to the U.S. nuclear deterrent?

I don't think they're worth the money in terms of what they get us, and I would agree with the arguments that our new air-launch plans more than cover the need and, heck, our submarines cover the need as well, in terms of being able to reach these targets. So, no, I don't see the need for the LRSO.

Earlier this year, you said that the United States does not need as many intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as the Air Force plans to build. The service is planning to replace the existing Minuteman III ICBM system of about 400 deployed missiles with missiles that are part of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent system. The program is very early in its development, and there is significant uncertainty about the cost, which is estimated at between $85 billion and $150 billion, counting inflation. What options should be considered to reduce the cost?

Build fewer of them. Again, this isn't terribly complicated. You look at the total number of nuclear warheads that we have and how many we truly need for our national security. In the studies I've seen, we are planning on winding up with 4,000 warheads by the end of this nuclear modernization when, in fact, 1,000 would be more than sufficient. You could also make an argument that we do not even need the ICBM component of the triad in order to meet our needs for deterrence with nuclear weapons. But certainly, it's a very compelling argument that we could get by building fewer of them.

So, do you think the Pentagon should more seriously consider further extending the life of a smaller number of existing Minuteman III ICBMs as a cheaper, near-term alternative to the plan for an entirely new ICBM system?

That I would have to examine to figure out the viability of extending the life of our existing nuclear weapons. If that's possible as a cheaper alternative, I think it's certainly something we should consider, but I would have to hear more arguments about that. But no matter how you get there, if you build fewer of them, you save more money.

The Trump administration's NPR expands the circumstances under which the United States would consider the first use of nuclear weapons, including in response to non-nuclear attacks on critical infrastructure or on nuclear command, control, and communications and early-warning capabilities. You introduced legislation last year that would make it U.S. policy not to use nuclear weapons first. Why adopt a no-first-use policy?

In order to reduce the risk of us stumbling into a nuclear war. There are a lot of threats, there are a lot of weapons systems out there. Nothing endangers the planet more than nuclear weapons. If you introduce them, you cannot predict what your adversaries are going to counter with, and an all-out nuclear war is the likely result, with the complete destruction of the planet.

President Donald Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 at Fort Drum, New York, on August 13. Rep. Adam Smith says the House Armed Services Committee, under Democratic control, will undertake renewed scrutiny of key defense programs, including nuclear-weapons procurement and policies.  (Photo: Sgt. Thomas Scaggs/U.S. Army)Look, war in general causes an enormous amount of suffering, but nuclear war is the greatest danger to the future of the planet. Introducing nuclear weapons first is an unacceptable escalation of any conflict that we could possibly envision. We have conventional means of responding, and we have a variety of different means of preventing getting into that war in the first place. I don't think it makes sense to have first use of nuclear weapons on the table as an option.

What would you say to critics who believe that a no-first-use policy could undermine deterrence
and unsettle our allies?

I think our allies are more unsettled by the possibility that we might introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict, as they are a lot closer to the nuclear powers in the world than we are. I think our allies would like to see us have a no-first-use policy, and, look, there are a whole lot of other things we need to do to deter our adversaries. I just don't think that nuclear weapons should be a part of that equation.

President Donald Trump announced his plan to have the United States withdraw from the INF Treaty. You have strongly criticized that and expressed concern about not being briefed or consulted. Do you think that the United States and Russia have exhausted all diplomatic options to resolve the compliance dispute?

I do not, and my biggest concern is we have not included our NATO allies in this discussion. I think we should pursue diplomatic efforts to try to preserve the INF Treaty. I think it is an important treaty, and I think we are abandoning it prematurely.

Does the United States need to field intermediate-range missiles in Europe or East Asia, and what would be the benefits and risks of doing so?

I don't think that we need to. I think we have other deterrent capabilities. The risk is an arms race. The risk is that Russia would greatly expand its arsenal of these types of weapons. I think the treaty made sense when we signed it. It still makes sense now.

If the INF Treaty collapses, the only remaining bilateral U.S.-Russian arms control agreement would be New START, which expires in 2021 but can be extended by up to five years through agreement by both parties. The administration has said that it does not yet have a position on whether to take up Russia’s offer to begin extension talks. What would be the impact of a U.S. withdrawal from or failure to extend New START?

An escalating arms race which gets us in dangerous territory. I think it would be problematic if we let that treaty expire.

The Obama administration had determined that the United States could reduce the size of its deployed strategic nuclear arsenal by up to a third below the New START limits of 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems. Should the United States seek to engage Russia on further reductions, including on Russian concerns about U.S. missile defenses?

Yes. I think we would benefit from greater dialogue with Russia. It's actually something that I do agree with the president on. I don't agree necessarily agree with the way he's handled it, but as two of the greatest military powers, I think the whole world would benefit from us having more robust discussions and negotiations with the Russians on all of these issues.

As part of its effort to win Republican support in the Senate for New START in 2010, the Obama administration pledged to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, said in September that congressional support for nuclear modernization ought to be tied to maintaining an arms control process that limits and seeks to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Do you agree?

As I said, negotiating with Russia to reduce military might in an equal way helps reduce the risk of conflict and the risk of escalation. We've got a long history of this, starting with President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. But as we looked at the build-up of our military strictly on the nuclear side, it made sense to negotiate a sensible limit on what weapons we would develop and that continues to be the case. Now that Russia is rebuilding and rearming and is much more in conflict with the United States, I think it makes sense that we have these discussions.

The administration is conducting a major review of U.S. missile defense policy. Some Trump administration officials have suggested that the review should augment the role of missile defense in countering Russia and China, not just the limited threats posed by Iran and North Korea, and they have urged the development of interceptors in space. Do you believe that such steps would be wise?

We need to have a dialogue with the Russians and Chinese about this. We don't want either side to get to the point where it thinks that it can win a war with an acceptable level of loss and therefore stumble into that war. Certainly, missile defense is part of what concerns the Russians, and their reaction has been toward wanting to build more weapons. We need to be able to defend ourselves, but I think we need to have an open dialogue with the Russians about an arms control approach that gives us a more secure world.

There have been efforts off and on to engage with Russia in a strategic stability dialogue. There was a strategic stability dialogue meeting last fall, but since then, a follow-up has not been scheduled despite the fact, as we understand it, that the Defense and State departments want to have it and the Russians want to have it. Is this something that the secretary of state and secretary of defense should be directly involved in, rather than relying on Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting occasionally on the margins of other meetings?

Yes, I think there needs to be robust engagement across all those fronts. I think the secretary of state and secretary of defense need to be involved. I think President Putin and President Trump need to be involved. I think a regular negotiation on the subject would be very, very helpful. So, yes, I think that is the right approach. We just need to follow through on it and do it.

Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the prospective chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, discusses his policy priorities, the limits of military spending, and the peril of a new nuclear arms race.

‘Everyone Has a Lot at Stake’: A Q&A with Fernando Arias, the new director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons


October 2018

Fernando Arias, the new director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, discusses the challenges to the international chemical weapons ban and how the OPCW is responding.

Spanish diplomat Fernando Arias took office July 25 as the fourth director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), stepping into the leadership post at a time when the prohibition regime and international norms are being undermined by Syria’s open use of chemical weapons and by assassination plots using banned toxins blamed on Russia and North Korea.

Fernando Arias, the new director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, calls the re-emergence of chemical weapons, most notably in Syria, a “tragic reality” and says that the OPCW will act on its expanded mandate to identify violators of the Chemical Weapons Convention. (Photo: OPCW)In response to questions last month from Arms Control Today’s Alicia Sanders-Zakre, Arias discussed the challenges facing the OPCW, the actions underway to document violators of the chemical weapons ban more fully, and the measures he is employing to improve the transparency and responsiveness of the 193-member-state organization that is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

The war in Syria has put the issue of attribution in the spotlight, particularly in instances where member-state Russia, Syria’s ally, has used its UN Security Council veto to thwart investigations. The independent OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has determined that chemical weapons were used by Syria and the Islamic State group.

With new authority granted by CWC member-states, Arias said he is putting in place arrangements for the purpose of identifying entities responsible for chemical weapons use. A special office for attribution will consist of a head of investigations and a few investigators and analysts who will be supported by existing Technical Secretariat expertise and structures. “Those responsible [for chemical weapons attacks] should now have nowhere to hide and should be held accountable by the international community for breaking the global norm against chemical weapons,” Arias said.

Arias is a career diplomat who served as Spain’s UN ambassador from 2012 to 2013. Before becoming director-general, he served as Spain’s ambassador to the Netherlands and permanent representative to the OPCW from 2014 to 2018.

Congratulations on your election. What is your top goal as director-general?

I am committed to working with our member-states to protect, defend, and uphold the CWC. This means implementing the mandate given to the organization by the convention, as well as the decisions adopted by the executive council and the plenary body, the Conference of the States-Parties. I will also respect and develop the important work undertaken by my predecessors and their teams.

The OPCW is charged with verifiably eliminating chemical weapons, preventing their re-emergence, and promoting chemistry for economic and technological development. I am especially interested in shaping a balanced organization that ensures a stringent verification regime and offers cooperation and assistance in the very wide field of peaceful uses of chemistry, while addressing the growing threat of re-emergence of chemical weapons use.

Our organization has a track record of measurable results, and we will build on it. For instance, more than 96 percent of declared stockpiles have been eliminated. But there is ongoing work to verify the destruction of old chemical weapons that are a legacy of World War I and World War II and abandoned chemical weapons in China. Moving forward, we will have to evolve to meet the increasing needs of our member-states and the expectations of the international community. Doing so means good management of the organization and introducing the reforms necessary for keeping the OPCW fit for purpose and ready to face any new challenges.

What are currently the greatest threats to the CWC regime?

The main threat to the convention is the re-emergence of chemical weapons, which is no longer theoretical but rather a tragic reality. Despite the global ban, we have witnessed their ongoing use. What worries me is the proven willingness of governments, terrorists, and criminals to use chemicals as weapons indiscriminately. Chemical weapons belong in a history book, not on the front page of newspapers.

The OPCW has almost fulfilled its foundational goal, the destruction of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles. As mentioned, more than 96 percent of these stockpiles have been destroyed under the OPCW’s watchful eye. Although the remaining work is on track for completion by 2023, four more countries [Egypt, Israel (a signatory), North Korea, and South Sudan] need to join the convention before the world can have confidence that all chemical weapons stockpiles have been accounted for.

As the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, our mission to verifiably destroy declared stockpiles has a conceivable end point. But our mission to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons requires constant vigilance in perpetuity. As we move into the postdestruction phase, our mission will be far from complete. In fact, it will only grow in significance and complexity.

Destroying chemical weapons is a relatively straightforward exercise; preventing their re-emergence is much more complex. Science and technology are constantly evolving, introducing new potential for misuse. The OPCW’s experience and expertise makes it the undisputed global authority on chemical weapons. In response to an evolving security landscape, OPCW member-states and the Technical Secretariat have become increasingly agile and resilient as we respond to threats. Even so, we must continually adapt and grow to contribute to global security.

This is especially crucial in an era of increasing competition for resources. Securing the resources the OPCW needs to uphold the global ban on chemical weapons requires the continued engagement of our member-states.

Are you concerned about the erosion of the norm against chemical weapons use due to repeated chemical attacks by Syria, a CWC state-party? If so, how will you address this problem?

Of course, I am concerned about any erosion of the norm. Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, and for any reason is unacceptable.

Chemical weapons use in Syria has been confirmed by both the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission and the JIM. These findings and recommendations represent an opportunity to uphold the prohibition against chemical weapons and to ensure accountability for those who violate it. This prohibition is unequivocal. All are bound to never, under any circumstances, develop, produce, stockpile, transfer, or use chemical weapons.

Since April 2014, the OPCW has been investigating allegations of the use of toxic chemicals as weapons in Syria. Our technical teams of impartial, experienced, and expert chemists and inspectors seek to establish the facts. The facts confirm the use of chemical weapons, including sarin, chlorine, and sulfur mustard.

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons technicians on April 20, 2017 show the type of equipment worn by investigators in the UK poisoning case of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal. (Photo: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)The OPCW is making use of all of the legal tools at its disposal to clarify and resolve the remaining gaps, inconsistencies, and discrepancies with the Syrian declaration [of its stockpiles]. This will continue to take an investment of time and effort, and we are working with the Syrian authorities to ensure the convention’s rules are implemented. The nations that have committed themselves to the convention also have to take steps to protect the global prohibition enshrined within it.

What challenges remain for completing the destruction of all declared chemical weapons?

Verifiably destroying most of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles has been an unparalleled achievement of the CWC. This treaty has so far proven to be the most successful at eliminating an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. However, the convention has yet to achieve universal membership. Until we reach it, we cannot know with confidence what other stockpiles of weapons may exist. I encourage the four remaining countries to join with the rest of the world and take up the responsibilities of the convention.

The United States, which has the last remaining declared chemical weapons stockpile, is scheduled to complete its destruction by 2023. How will the OPCW’s role change once all declared chemical weapons stockpiles have been destroyed?

The OPCW has always had a multifaceted mission. When people think of the OPCW, destruction of chemical weapons most likely comes to mind. This is true, but it is not our sole mission. We also aim to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons by working with governments, industry, and other international organizations. We have been working with our member-states to provide assistance and protection against chemical threats. In parallel, we strive to foster international cooperation to strengthen implementation of the convention and to promote the peaceful uses of chemistry.

When all declared stockpiles have been verifiably eliminated, the OPCW will still be actively pursuing these goals. The organization needs to retain the knowledge, expertise, and equipment to support any future destruction activities. This may come about with the OPCW gaining new members. The same goes with addressing the threat of chemical weapons use. We need to maintain and broaden the expertise we have gained across the years if we want to be successful in fulfilling this mission.

Eliminating chemical weapons in a way that is safe and secure and protects the environment, as mandated by the convention, is very expensive and very complex. Even once all declared stockpiles are destroyed, concerns will remain about the management and trade of chemicals. As long as there are those with malicious intent, the OPCW will continue its work with national authorities and the United Nations and other international organizations to reduce the risk of the diversion of chemicals in the fight against the harmful misuse of chemicals by anyone, anywhere, and under any circumstances.

Will you increase transparency and civil society engagement, as the past two directors-general have done?

Of course. Civil society has been a champion of the convention from even before its inception. The community of researchers, scientists, and nongovernmental organizations is essential for raising awareness of chemical weapons issues and keeping us all accountable. Over the last few years, there has been an emphasis on the role of education and outreach. I want to see this continue. The next generation of chemistry practitioners and decision-makers will play a critical role in ensuring that the global ban on chemical weapons remains strong.

I will continue to encourage civil society to engage with the OPCW and its member-states. Since the last review conference, in 2013, we are projected to more than double civil society participation for this upcoming review conference, in November. As our organization focuses more and more on preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons, we understand that achieving that goal will require the engagement of a much broader cross-section of society than before.

Transparency is important for organizations to thrive. For instance, one step I have already taken is to ensure senior leadership positions are recruited through a more open and transparent process. For the first time, recently we have publicly advertised director-level vacancies in an effort to find the best and brightest for these critical roles. As the organization faces new challenges, we need strong leadership and a good, independent, and professional team.

Another key to improved transparency is access to information. The OPCW has a new website that communicates with authority and trust while making information easy to find and use. This is part of an effort, initiated by my predecessor, to make the OPCW more engaging and accountable. This new website is a core part of our effort to use digital platforms such as social media to reach people all over the world.

Before leaving office, your predecessor, Ahmet Üzümcü, called the OPCW’s former lack of attribution power a “major gap.” What should be the role of the OPCW in assigning blame for chemical weapons attacks?

The international community has long placed its trust in the OPCW to rid the world of chemical weapons. Determining that a chemical weapon has been used is an essential step, but it is not enough. As of this past June and through the decision adopted by the Conference of States-Parties, the OPCW has been tasked with the mission to identify the perpetrators. So far, we have been detectives who could only say if a crime has happened; now we can identify who did it. But it is up to a court or others to determine the consequences. Attribution is not accountability.

Those responsible should now have nowhere to hide and should be held accountable by the international community for breaking the global norm against chemical weapons. Achieving justice involves a wider range of international institutions and mechanisms, but the OPCW will do its part in the process. Attribution will be our contribution.

How will you advance the recent decision in late June to give the OPCW the mandate to assign blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria?

To clarify, the decision adopted by the Conference of States-Parties addresses the threat of chemical weapons use. It is not only about Syria. Instead, the decision lays out several avenues for OPCW action to address the use of chemical weapons.

For instance, the OPCW has been tasked for the first time to investigate uses of chemical weapons for the purposes of attribution. We will take on this task in instances where the Fact-Finding Mission has determined chemical weapons were used or likely used in Syria. We would also do this if a member-state investigating possible chemical weapons use on its territory asks us for assistance.

Diplomats speak at the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of States-Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, held at The Hague on June 26. (Photo: OPCW)The OPCW will help with efforts to pursue justice by preserving and providing information to relevant UN investigatory entities. We have been asked to further assist our member-states in preventing chemical terrorism while helping them develop protection against a potential attack. Finally, per the request of the Conference of States-Parties, we will propose measures to strengthen the verification regime. I am confident that all of these measures, once identified and implemented, will help to make our world a safer place.

I have set up a task force that has been working swiftly and intensively to implement the decision. The task force has consulted with relevant international organizations and structures that deal with attribution issues. The Technical Secretariat currently has the capability to support this new mission, but we need additional and complementary expertise and skills in investigations, forensics, and related analysis. The task force has assessed the human, financial, and technological resources and organizational structures needed.

Taking on this new mission successfully requires adequate resourcing. I have faith that our member-states will grant the OPCW the means it needs to fulfill the mission they have given us.

In terms of chemical weapons use in Syria, we are creating a new office responsible for attribution that will report directly to me. This special office for attribution will consist of a head of investigations and a few investigators and analysts who will be supported by existing Technical Secretariat expertise and structures. As attribution can serve to deter the use of chemical weapons, this is one way that we are implementing our mandate to prevent the re-emergence of chemical weapons. We need to take an integrated approach to this issue, using our current skills and recruiting new staff and resources to meet demands for specific skill sets.

The OPCW’s findings must hold up to technical and legal scrutiny. The design and implementation of the decision must be beyond reproach to ensure that those who are identified as responsible for the use of chemical weapons are ultimately held accountable, not by the OPCW but by the appropriate authorities.

What should states-parties do at the Fourth CWC Review Conference in November to strengthen the treaty?

The conference is a crucial yet narrow window of opportunity for our member- states to set the OPCW’s strategy and priorities for the next five years. Its outcomes may have a lasting impact on the tone and structure of the organization as we further transition into the postdestruction era.

The increasing focus on preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons and confronting the threat of chemical weapons use will mean changes for what we do and how we do it. Accordingly, the conference must consider how to match sustainable resources to the responsibilities and composition of the OPCW.

The time allocated for the review conference is short, but the stakes for the organization are high. Member-states have gathered to deliberate on the future priorities of the OPCW and the work of the conference. These deliberations are the foundations for what I hope will be a forward-looking and constructive outcome document.

For more than 20 years, these governments have invested in a global effort to verifiably eliminate declared stockpiles of chemical weapons, while preventing the re-emergence of such weapons and simultaneously promoting the peaceful uses of chemistry. In the face of today’s threats, everyone has a lot at stake to make sure the regime underpinned by the CWC continues to function and adapt as needed.

Banishing the scourge of chemical weapons depends on those who have built the international system to make full use of it. The senseless loss of life is a reminder that the protection promised by the convention is only as strong as those willing to uphold it.

Fernando Arias, the new director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, discusses the challenges to the international chemical weapons ban and how the OPCW is responding.

Q&A: Prospects and Perils at a Trump-Kim Summit


May 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are due to meet by early June in a historic, high-stakes summit.

They make an odd couple: a self-confident U.S. president, largely inexperienced in international affairs and distracted by federal investigations, who is looking to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear threat; and an authoritarian North Korean leader, undercut by severe international sanctions, who is seeking to ensure the survival of the dynastic regime established 70 years ago by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. In the past year, they have traded insults, such as “little rocket man” and “dotard,” and threatened each other with nuclear devastation, demonstrating just how much is on the line at this summit, which would be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of communist North Korea.

How will they interact face to face? What will they decide about the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons systems, now capable of striking much or all of the United States? Can they set aside decades of enmity between the two countries to avoid repeating the past failures?

Two experts on U.S.-North Korean diplomacy share some of their views looking ahead to a Trump-Kim meeting. Jenny Town is assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and managing editor of the website 38 North. Frank Jannuzi is president and CEO of the Mansfield Foundation and a former policy director for East Asian and Pacific affairs for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Photo credits: The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, The Mansfield Foundation)Arms Control Today in mid-April asked two experts on U.S.-North Korean diplomacy to share some of their views looking ahead to a meeting. Jenny Town is assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and managing editor of the website 38 North, which analyzes North Korean developments. Frank Jannuzi is president and CEO of the Mansfield Foundation and a former policy director for East Asian and Pacific affairs for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


What should the goals and objectives of the proposed Trump-Kim summit be? What can the two heads of state reasonably expect to accomplish in one meeting?

Town: This is not going to be a one-time, problem-solved event, but can create the top-down mandate for negotiations on a common goal and a mutual understanding of how that process will proceed. Especially important will be gaining mutual agreement on the pacing for this process to avoid frustration early on.

Jannuzi: The main goal for the United States should be to reaffirm or, more accurately, “establish” that North Korea is prepared to abandon its nuclear weapons completely and verifiably in exchange for peace, sanctions relief, and security assurances. I don't think “irreversible” denuclearization has ever been a realistic goal, as the scientific capacity to produce nuclear weapons, once learned, cannot be forgotten.

Kim will almost certainly hand over the three detained Americans, either at the summit or shortly thereafter, as a gift to Trump, who will bring them to the White House for a photo op, crediting his pressure tactics for their release. Trump will not offer and Kim does not expect any sanctions relief. Kim does not expect to receive any “gifts” beyond the great gift Trump is already giving him by agreeing to a face-to-face meeting as equals.

What does the administration need to do to prepare Trump for an encounter with Kim, and how might Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser affect the administration’s approach?

Town: In the next few weeks, efforts should be focused on setting clear objectives and realistic expectations for the summit. I’m sure the administration is developing what a desired road map for this process might be and briefing Trump on areas where there is flexibility and where there is not. There is no shortage of ideas out there on what should be included in a comprehensive agreement, and there are past agreements to draw from. Certainly, both sides are likely studying these past agreements; assessing what new conditions exist that didn’t before, such as North Korea’s advancements in weapons of mass destruction technologies; and mapping out new priorities for what will need to be addressed in a new agreement and including roles for various actors.

Jannuzi: To paraphrase former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bill Perry's admonition on how to engage North Korea, we must all deal with the United States as it is, rather than as we might wish it to be. Trump will represent the United States at this summit, and he probably will not be prepared for it. He does not read, and it is not clear that he will listen to any advice. At the summit, Trump will have many opportunities to freelance answers to complex questions and improvise slap-dash solutions to decades-old challenges. The Trump administration will likely spend weeks doing "damage control" after the summit, walking back the president's words and "contextualizing" them for their North Korean counterparts.

If Pompeo and Bolton have a chance to influence Trump at all, they will probably play constructive roles. In his testimony before the Senate, Pompeo indicated both a willingness to talk to North Korea and a healthy skepticism about whether the North Koreans can be relied on to fulfill the terms of any deal. Pompeo will need to keep his skepticism in check for now. There will be plenty of time later to address the dogged questions of phasing, verification, and reciprocity that will make any deal difficult to implement. As for Bolton, Trump will likely use him as a foil, trotting him out whenever he wants to remind the North Koreans that some in his inner circle would prefer to bomb their territory. Trump will play good cop to Bolton's bad cop, painting himself as the reasonable negotiating partner looking for a “deal” in comparison to the Bolton “pit bull” itching for a rumble.

How can the two sides create a framework for sustained negotiations on steps toward denuclearization and a peace regime on the Korean peninsula?

Town: While there are several bilateral summits going on, this issue certainly will need multilateral cooperation to solve. It is crucial to have buy-in from the key stakeholders, not only for what they bring to the table but also to avoid intentional disruptions to the process for being left out.

Jannuzi: I think the Trump administration seeks a “declaratory” outcome from this summit, not a substantive outcome or sustained process. Trump will declare that, as a result of his pressure tactics and brilliant negotiating skill, North Korea has promised to denuclearize. He will muse publicly about getting a Nobel peace prize and ask the media to praise his historic accomplishment. Fox News will oblige him. Kim will declare that his nuclear weapons have accomplished their purpose and delivered peace and security. He will bask in the warmth of the respect and international legitimacy implied by his summit with Trump. Both leaders will leave all of the “details” to be worked out later by their teams.

Substantive talks, which will likely be delayed until after the U.S. midterm elections, will prove long and difficult, if they take place at all. The United States has no discernible, realistic road map to accomplish denuclearization and so will have to draft one over the summer that can be presented to the North Koreans for their evaluation and response. In the meantime, I expect the two sides [to] meet at the working level, focusing on very modest interim steps, such as sustaining a missile and nuclear test freeze in exchange for no new sanctions or punitive measures by the United States.

What role do you see South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping playing in facilitating a positive outcome?

Town: China and South Korea are key players in the process. Xi’s support for negotiations and belief that Kim is ready to go down this road seems to be already set. Whether Moon walks away from his meeting with Kim at Panmunjom with that same perspective could influence whether the Trump-Kim summit even happens.

Jannuzi: Moon will ensure that the Trump administration has a clear understanding of the results of the Moon-Kim summit, and he will encourage Kim to hand Trump what he most wants: a “win.” Xi will warn Kim not to waste this opportunity to transform the U.S. posture from hostility to cooperation, and he will likely pledge some relaxation of sanctions enforcement if North Korea promises to denuclearize.

What pitfalls from past U.S.-North Korean experiences must be avoided so that we do not sink back into a cycle of escalation?

Town: The key point to learn from past agreements is that the devil is in the details. Making sure that once an agreement is on paper, the details are specific, nothing is taken for granted, and verification measures are explicit. Multilateral coordination will be essential to prevent disruptions and loopholes. Moreover, coordination among domestic policy institutions will be important to avoid various actors taking uncoordinated actions that undermine or derail the process.

Jannuzi: The United States should understand that denuclearization and peace are processes that require time and patience. Washington will surely encounter difficulties implementing any agreement. Rather than see each problem as proof of North Korean bad faith, Washington should be prepared for a sustained diplomatic effort that will likely take decades to accomplish its ultimate objectives.

Unfortunately, this is not the approach the Trump administration has in mind. It says that it wants to front-load any agreement to avoid the “mistakes of the past,” including the phased, reciprocal nature of the 1994 Agreed Framework. It wants a process of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, known as CVID, that is completed in months, not years. This is not realistic. The Korean peninsula has been divided for 70 years, and the North Koreans have been pursuing nuclear weapons for decades. They will not abandon them quickly or cheaply, and it will require CVIPS (complete, verifiable, and irreversible peace and security) in exchange for CVID.

Two experts look ahead to a pivotal meeting.

Q&A: Ambassador Adam Bugajski: ‘The NPT is still strong and alive.’


April 2018

Photo: Permanent Mission of the Republic of Poland  to the United Nations Office and the International Organizations in ViennaAdam Bugajski, Poland’s permanent representative to the UN Office and international organizations in Vienna, is chairman of the second session of the preparatory committee for the 2020 review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), being held in Geneva on April 23-May 4. These responses to questions from ACT’s Alicia Sanders-Zakre have been edited for clarity.

As chair of the NPT preparatory committee, how will you seek to bridge the growing divides within the international community, for example on the pace of disarmament?

My role as the chairman of the second stage of the 2020 review cycle is, first and foremost, to uphold and strengthen the NPT in all of its aspects. It can be achieved by open, inclusive, mutually respectful, and transparent dialogue. I am ready to work on every reasonable and viable proposal in accordance with well-established rules. Yet, the success or failure of the 2020 review cycle is on the states-parties. It is fair to say that, at this stage, many states-parties prefer a steady pace of work and are not struggling for outcomes on the most delicate dossiers.

I am fully aware, of course, of different positions on disarmament and of difficulties to find a common ground on the basis of NPT Article VI. Under the present circumstances, one must be realistic. The second preparatory committee is a building block in the whole construction of the review cycle, which will be concluded in 2020; and until that moment, there is still plenty of space to find the way to bring us closer to the answers and solutions. One must remember that there is no single road toward disarmament and that disarmament is not only about reductions. Different countries and groups of states have different approaches, and neither of them should therefore be regarded as the only valid one. Much depends on the P5 states, as those who are in possession of nuclear weapons, but the voice of others could serve as an important prompt for constructive dialogue, free
of any prejudices and unrealistic expectations. The meeting offers a useful and well-structured platform
for such a dialogue.

And on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East?

The same applies to the creation of the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. This issue regularly posed a challenge to recent review cycles. It is not going to be different this time, I suppose. My visit to the region revealed that it is still difficult to find a common ground to build on. There is a clarity on the goal, and the 1995 Resolution [on the Middle East] remains the ultimate reference for a solution, but there are currently more questions than answers on modalities and on the next step to be taken. However, with the help of other interested parties, such co-conveners, and possibly also international organizations, the region itself is able to come up with a viable proposal at least as to the general direction of their further actions.

What should be accomplished during the 2018 NPT preparatory committee in order to set the stage for a successful NPT review conference in 2020?

The NPT review cycles always have been challenging. Only half of the review conferences ended up with the positive outcome. But on the eve of its 50th anniversary, the NPT is still strong and alive. It is pretty much the most comprehensive treaty if you compare it to the other arms control treaties, and we deal with the deadliest weapon ever invented by mankind. It is true that the NPT is also fragile and easy to be undermined. Therefore, we all have the responsibility to take care of it. This is why a well-thought-through structure of the review cycles has been established for permanent improvement. I am not in a position to judge whether this cycle will be successful. Whether we will have a comprehensive progressive outcome document; a series of decisions, as was the case in 1995; or a short but bold political declaration, it is premature to predict at this stage.

What is the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge, I believe, is the current global security situation, full of tensions and largely unpredictable. It is fair to say that those circumstances are not conducive to a successful NPT review cycle as it does not exist in the vacuum. At the same time, I believe that a passive, sort of “wait and see” approach could easily lead to the next failure. Therefore, my choice was for a positive engagement and common diplomatic effort to change the situation in the sphere of disarmament and nonproliferation. I hope it will pay back.

However, what actually can be accomplished during this preparatory committee session and beyond to build toward the 2020 review is to limit the discrepancies in areas where it is feasible, for example in the disarmament area. We can also identify and mark the issues where progress can be made on the way to 2020. Full support for institutions like the International Atomic Energy Agency and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization should be shown by all states as they are indispensable instruments of the NPT portfolio. It all can be done through fair, open discussion given an understanding that the NPT is our common value and there will not be any better instrument dealing with nuclear nonproliferation.

 

Poland’s permanent representative to the UN Office and international organizations in Vienna discusses his role as chairman of the April 23–May 4 session of the preparatory committee for the 2020 review conference of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

‘We’ve Done Something Quite Significant’ A Conversation With ICAN’s Beatrice Fihn

December 2017
Interviewed by Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), has had an extraordinary year.

At the United Nations, ICAN’s 10-year campaign culminated in the adoption on July 7 of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first legally binding accord to prohibit such weapons with a goal of their eventual elimination. Then, on October 6, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), answers a question during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York on October 9, three days after the announcement that the group won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.  (Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)Fihn has led ICAN since 2014. Previously, she headed the disarmament program at the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, where she started as an intern. She studied international relations at Stockholm University and law at the University of London.

ICAN, founded in 2007 to ban nuclear weapons, is a coalition of 468 nongovernmental organizations in 101 countries. In making the award, the Nobel committee said its members are fully aware that an international legal prohibition “will not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear weapon ban treaty.”

Still, the committee said this year’s peace prize is “a call upon these states to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.” Fihn said she expects ICAN will continue to take a leadership role in working to achieve the treaty’s early entry into force and its eventual success. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Congratulations to ICAN for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. What was your first reaction to the news?

Just really overwhelmed. There’s a video of me that my colleague took in which I was walking around shaking my hands, hyperventilating. I just felt very strongly that this changes everything for us.

How has the award affected ICAN’s work? It’s been a few months.

It gave us what we have been missing so far in this campaign. That’s media coverage and a recognition outside the diplomatic community that there is a treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons, that there are people working on this issue, and that we’ve done something quite significant.

I think it’s catapulted us into the public awareness in a much bigger way than before, which is useful for many things—for us to be able to mobilize people, for putting pressure on governments, and for getting the opportunity to talk about nuclear weapons today in a way that isn’t centered around the North Korea threat only but that also questions nuclear weapons in general no matter who has them.

As you say, this was a pretty significant achievement. The prohibition treaty is one of the few breakthroughs in multilateral nuclear disarmament in many years. How do you see it affecting the global conversation around nuclear weapons in the years to come?

It’s too early to say. Obviously, the humanitarian angle, talking about what would happen if nuclear weapons were used, has stuck. Also, it has put a spotlight on all the states and organizations and people that are complicit in upholding the nuclear weapons structure in the world. We like to think that it’s just nine states, but we plan to expose how many more are participating in activities around nuclear weapons and legitimizing nuclear weapons. Long term, we really want to challenge the kind of behavior that goes against the treaty—use, testing of nuclear weapons, development, possession.

You mentioned the humanitarian dimension. Clearly, that is a key part of this treaty. How do you see the humanitarian perspective on nuclear weapons being different from the status quo perspective, and why is it important?

Humanitarian concerns are what have driven any kind of real progress on nuclear weapons, starting with the Partial Test Ban Treaty, when atmospheric testing had a huge impact on people. That perspective, what would happen to people if nuclear weapons were used, has always been the motivating factor.

However, a lot of governments have felt comfortable to do whatever they want in the name of state security. We see governments saying that they need to torture people or arrest them without rights for national security reasons. At some point, you have to draw a line on what atrocities governments can commit and claim [as] national security. It’s important to remember that indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians is not a national security interest. That’s what nuclear weapons will do if they’re used, and that’s what governments are threatening to do with the weapons that exist today.

The treaty elicited very strong criticism from nuclear-weapon states. Why is the treaty so controversial? Has any of the criticism given you any pause in your support for the treaty?

The treaty gets a lot of criticism because it challenges the belief that nuclear weapons are for some countries to have until they feel like not having them anymore and it removes control from the nuclear-armed states on how international law governs nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are mainly a political power tool, which means they’re also the most sensitive weapons to norms and opinions. They’re only powerful if people say that they are, so that’s why they’re also very fragile.

Three survivors of the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 pose with their supporters October 6 in Tokyo to congratulate ICAN on being awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Fihn has said the award also honors the elderly hibakusha, who embody the humanitarian aspects of the campaign.  (Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)I think there can be criticism about certain parts of the treaty. For example, I also think that the treaty would be better if nuclear-armed states would sign on to it. I’d love to see that. Most criticism, though, is hiding the fact that the people who make the criticism don’t want nuclear weapons to be prohibited. This criticism comes from the most powerful countries in the world. They’re not easy opponents. There’s been pressure from states to back off. Nuclear-armed states held press conferences about how awful we are and how we’re doing the wrong thing. That has been, of course, tough. Not tough enough to stop us.

Another criticism, one that even the Nobel committee brought up in its statement, is that the treaty will not, in and of itself, eliminate a single weapon.

Well, that’s because the nuclear-armed states are not signing it! It’s in their power. If they wanted to, they could sign this treaty and eliminate their nuclear weapons, and then the treaty would lead to elimination. But I think that’s sort of an unjust benchmark to put this treaty against because the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty doesn’t eliminate any nuclear weapons either. A fissile material cutoff treaty wouldn’t eliminate any nuclear weapons either. But somehow, we’re judged against the benchmark of securing international peace forever.

Turning to the negotiations themselves, there were a lot of women at the forefront of the prohibition treaty effort, including the negotiating conference president and several key heads of delegations. Did you think that the higher percentage of female leadership impacted the negotiations?

It’s difficult to tell. I don’t think that the sex of the negotiators really determines the outcome, but at the same time, I think the gender perspective is a huge influencer. [U.S. President] Donald Trump’s tweets about how diplomacy is useless indicate an extremely macho culture where negotiating and compromising is considered feminine and therefore weaker than bombing and starting wars. Negotiating to find joint solutions to global problems is something that, I think, is feminine coded. Women have been trained to focus more on that.

In many disarmament forums, women are underrepresented and don’t have as many leadership roles. Could the prohibition treaty negotiations, which had more women in leadership, be a model for future negotiations?

Yes, absolutely. If you do include people with different perspectives who are shaped by different norms, I think it definitely can help. The whole humanitarian consequences perspective isn’t about whether to bomb a city but on what happens afterward and who would build up the community again. It’s very often women who have to put everything together later.

I think having that perspective will make space for women much more than the military perspective. It gives a more complete picture of the problem. We’ve also seen in peace negotiations that if you include women, the negotiations go better because it involves the communities who maintain and build up the peace afterward. It’s definitely beneficial for all processes to involve different groups and to make sure to have as many perspectives as possible to get a solution that works for everyone.

Looking ahead, the treaty needs to be ratified by 50 states to enter into force. It currently has three. How does ICAN plan to get at least 47 others? Do you have a target date?

We looked at other weapons treaties, and to hit 50, it took those treaties approximately two years. I would love to see it get 50 ratifications before the end of 2018. I know that’s an ambitious goal. If it takes longer, it takes longer, but I think we should be able to move relatively fast into entry into force.

ICAN was founded to achieve a ban, which has now happened. What’s next for ICAN?

Now we need to work on the implementation. The treaty has always been the tool, not just the goal in itself. First, we need to build a strong norm, and that comes through getting as many countries to sign and ratify this treaty as possible. Also, parallel to that is to challenge behavior that lies outside this new norm.

We’ve been very, very focused on the negotiations. Now, we need to change direction and move toward focusing on the nuclear weapons and the nuclear-armed states. In a way, they’ve gotten away very easily because we’ve just focused on negotiations. But now, we have to look at their arsenals, their decisions, and their actions and campaign against that from the position of the treaty. So, we will find what kind of activities are going on today that are not in line with this treaty and then build campaign opportunities and mobilize people against those activities to stop them, whether or not the country has signed the treaty.

 

What’s next for the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons?

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