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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
CTBT & Nuclear Testing

The North Korean Missile Crisis

The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. But since the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, a bad situation has become far worse. Now, as Trump readies for a trip to East Asia, the crisis enters a critical phase.

This July 28, 2017 picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 29, 2017 shows North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being lauched at an undisclosed place in North Korea. Kim Jong-Un boasted of North Korea's ability to strike any target in the US after a second ICBM test that weapons experts said could even bring New York into range - in a potent challenge to US President Donald Trump. (Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)The risk of conflict through miscalculation by either side now may be as severe as during the tense days of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly went to war over the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Now, as then, miscalculation could lead to war and escalation to the nuclear level. Millions of lives in South and North Korea and Japan are at risk. Each side must refrain from further threats and taunts and open a direct, private, and high-level diplomatic channel of communication.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration said its North Korea policy would involve “maximum pressure and engagement.” Since then, we have seen pressure, reckless rhetoric, and threats, not engagement.

North Korea responded with accelerated ballistic missile testing, including two intercontinental-range tests. That led China, North Korea’s major trading partner, to announced it was halting imports of coal, iron, and lead from North Korea.

On Sept. 3, North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test—a thermonuclear blast having a yield of 150 to 250 kilotons. In response, China and Russia voted for new sanctions at the UN Security Council. China’s central bank has also instructed other Chinese banks to stop providing financial services to North Korea.

In his inaugural address to the United Nations on Sept. 19, Trump worsened the situation. “We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if it threatens U.S. allies in the region, he said. Trump has ordered regular B1-B strategic bomber flights near North Korea, which Pyongyang sees as a prelude to war. He called North Korea’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, a “rocket man” on “a suicide mission.”

In his clumsy style, Trump appears to be trying to intimidate Kim. But the history of the nuclear age has shown that 
smaller states, even those without nuclear weapons, are not easily intimidated by U.S. nuclear threats. North Korea is 
no exception.

To show Pyongyang’s determination, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned that North Korea might conduct a hydrogen bomb test explosion over the Pacific. Ri claims that the United States has effectively declared war on his country and therefore North Korea reserves the right to shoot down any U.S. aircraft that fly over or near its territory.

In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy worked very hard to carefully coordinate all U.S. government messages and signals toward Moscow so U.S. intentions were clear. He exchanged direct, private messages with his Soviet counterpart, Nikita Khrushchev, to seek a way out of the crisis. Kennedy was careful not to rule out certain compromises that would later prove to be essential to resolving the crisis.

But Trump is no Kennedy. The lack of discipline and coordination shown by the Trump administration greatly increases the risk factor. “I think there’s a 10 percent chance the wheels really come off, and we have a full-on war on the Korean peninsula, which would include nuclear use,” warned former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis on Sept. 28.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, and other U.S. officials have unwisely knocked down Chinese proposals to de-escalate tensions that would involve North Korea halting further nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the United States pausing certain military exercises that North Korea sees as particularly threatening.

If each side can refrain from further threats, it may still be possible for a direct U.S.-North Korean dialogue, without preconditions, that sets a new course toward a negotiated or brokered agreement that addresses the concerns of the international community and the security concerns of North Korea.

A commonsense first step would be an immediate halt to further North Korean nuclear and intermediate- or long-range ballistic missile tests and U.S. military exercises and maneuvers that could be interpreted to be practice runs for an attack.

Given that neither Kim nor Trump has ever been known to publicly back down, however, an outside diplomatic intervention may be in order. The UN secretary-general could convene an emergency, closed-door meeting with senior leaders from the members of the past six-party talks (China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States) and initiate a serious dialogue designed to lower tensions and address issues of mutual concern. A trusted emissary from a third party, such as the Vatican, could pursue shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, Trump could authorize a personal representative to meet with a senior representative of Kim to work out a plan to reduce tensions.

As Kennedy said 55 years ago following the Cuban missile crisis, “Above all, while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to the choice of either a humiliating defeat or a nuclear war.”


The monthly “Focus” editorials from Arms Control Today are available for reprint on a non-exclusive basis
with permission from the Arms Control Association and link to the original publication online.

 

The nuclear danger posed by North Korea is not new. But as Trump readies for a trip to East Asia, the crisis enters a critical phase.

Trump Administration Silent on CTBT


October 2017
By Shervin Taheran

At the UN Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) held Sept. 20, the sole U.S. representative sat silently as senior officials from other nations expressed support for the landmark 1996 accord.

The Trump administration, working without an undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, did not match the high level of representation exhibited by other governments and international organizations. Speakers included foreign ministers and other senior officials, such as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

The U.S. silence is particularly notable because the Trump administration is conducting a Nuclear Posture Review, which may include the question of whether the country can adequately maintain its nuclear arsenal without test explosions. The last U.S. nuclear explosive test was Sept. 23, 1992, and many experts have concluded that testing is not necessary to maintain a reliable nuclear stockpile.

The Trump administration has yet to comment publicly about the CTBT, which the United States signed in 1996 but has not ratified. It has commended the CTBTO International Monitoring System and capabilities for detecting nuclear test explosions, notably in the April 7 joint communiqué on nonproliferation and disarmament by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other foreign ministers of the Group of Seven.

Although the Trump administration has requested full funding for the CTBTO, in line with previous years, some Republicans in Congress are aiming to “restrict” that funding. (See ACT, March 2017.)

The United States is one of eight countries, known as the “hold-out states,” that must ratify the treaty
before it can enter into force. The others are China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. Of the eight, India, North Korea, and Pakistan have not taken the first step of signing the treaty.

Many nations at the session, informally known as the Article XIV conference, after the article in the treaty that advocates its convening, commended last year’s first UN Security Council resolution to specifically support the CTBT. A total of 42 countries, including Israel, co-sponsored Resolution 2310, which came 20 years after the treaty was opened for signature. (See ACT, October 2016.)

Yet, a reference to the resolution was absent in the final declaration of the conference, causing Mogherini to note, “We welcome the positive developments since the 2015 Article XIV conference . . . the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2310, which reaffirms the vital importance and urgency of achieving prompt entry into force of the treaty and its universalization. The European Union would have preferred to see a direct reference to this resolution in the final declaration.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature the same morning as the Article XIV conference (See "Fifty States Sign Nuclear Weapons Ban," this issue), where the new accord was frequently mentioned in remarks by officials from countries supporting the new treaty.

Noting concerns among some of the member-states and signatories that the prohibition treaty is in conflict with the CTBT, Alexander Marschik, political director of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, said that the prohibition treaty text “recognizes the vital importance of the CTBT and its verification regime as a core element of the nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation architecture.”

“Its formulations regarding testing were very carefully drafted to ensure they are fully compatible with the CTBT,” he added. “Moreover, there is reason for hope that the success of the new prohibition treaty negotiations will create a positive impulse for our common objective here: the entry into force of the CTBT and the cessation of nuclear testing.”

China and Egypt were the only two “hold-out” states to speak at the conference, and neither offered a clear path on if or when they would ratify the CTBT. China’s statement only alluded to, but did not name, North Korea, the only country now conducting nuclear explosive testing.

Russia also took the opportunity to call out only the United States among the eight “hold-out” states, saying the “U.S. position,” as well as the doubtful effectiveness of the Article XIV process, could “undermine the hope” that the CTBT would eventually enter into force. “We have the impression that some states are satisfied with the current circumstances.”

The Article XIV conference was led by newly elected co-presidents Belgium and Iraq, which took over from Kazakhstan and Japan. Belgium and Iraq will continue in that role for two years until the next Article XIV conference, unless the treaty comes into force thereby eliminating the need for the conference.—SHERVIN TAHERAN

The United States withholds comment while the new administration reviews nuclear weapons policies.

Listen to our European Partners: Sustain the Nuclear Deal with Iran

Before taking action to undermine or violate the nuclear deal with Iran, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress would be wise to heed the words of Washington’s European partners in the deal, namely that the agreement is working and renegotiation is futile. Ambassador David O’Sullivan of the European Union, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, and Ambassador Kim Darroch of the United Kingdom, joined forces to deliver these messages at the Atlantic Council Sept. 25 , just three weeks ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline for Trump to issue or withhold a...

Civil Society Leaders: Renew Action to Bring CTBT Into Force

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Civil Society Leaders Call for Renewed Action to
Bring Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Into Force at UN Conference
 

Note Absence of U.S. Voice on Test Ban in Wake of North Korean Nuclear Test

For Immediate Release: Sept. 20, 2017

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association (202-277-3478, [email protected]) and Kathy Crandall Robinson, Interim Director, Women’s Action for New Directions, 202-577-9875 ([email protected])

(New York)—At the tenth Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)—also known informally as the Article XIV conference—held at the United Nations in New York, a diverse group of nongovernmental nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament leaders, as well as former government officials and diplomats are calling for renewed action to finally bring the 1996 CTBT into force.

The statement from more than 40 civil society leaders, delivered by Kathy Crandall Robinson from Women’s Action for New Directions, notes that “[i]nternational support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions, including 2016’s Resolution 2310 and the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but our work is not yet done.” 

“In order to realize the full potential of the CTBT and to close the door on further nuclear testing, we need to secure the entry into force of the treaty,” the civil society statement urges, "[s]upporters of the CTBT need to undertake new and sustained diplomatic and outreach efforts to help underscore the political and security value of the treaty for each of the eight remaining CTBT 'hold-out' states and the international community." 

The full text of the statement is below or click here for the PDF.

Unfortunately, the United States, one of the key states that must ratify before it can enter into force, attended but failed to speak at the conference.

“In the wake of North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test, it is essential that Washington join with its allies and the international community in reiterating the United States’ support for a permanent, verifiable end to all nuclear weapons testing,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which organized the civil society statement.

The United States, which was the first country to sign the treaty 21 years ago, is one of the eight “hold-out” states that must still ratify the treaty to trigger its formal entry into force. The other hold-outs include: China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Israel, India, and Pakistan. The CTBT has been signed by 183 states and ratified by 166.

The civil society leaders also called upon the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council members to more fully utilize the CTBTO by calling upon the Executive Secretary to report to these bodies and "supply information or provide other assistance relating to the treaty, including technical reports on the DPRK nuclear tests, the status of global nuclear test monitoring, and activities related to efforts to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT.”

_______________________

Past Time to Finish What We Started 

Civil Society Statement to the 10th Article XIV Conference on
Facilitating Entry Into Force of the CTBT 

Sept. 20, 2017

A global, verifiable, legally binding comprehensive ban on all types of nuclear test explosions has been a goal for international nuclear-risk reduction, nonproliferation, and disarmament since the beginning of the nuclear age.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the result of years of campaigning by civil society organizations and ordinary people around the globe concerned about the adverse health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing and the dangers of the nuclear arms race. The CTBT is the result of the courageous leadership displayed by key political and diplomatic leaders.

Two decades after the opening for signature of the CTBT, the treaty has near universal support and has established a global norm against nuclear test explosions. Nations that conduct nuclear tests are now considered outside the international mainstream and bear the consequences of global isolation. Only one country—North Korea—has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century. 

By prohibiting all nuclear weapon test explosions, the CTBT creates an important barrier against the development of new and more advanced nuclear warhead designs, which, in turn, helps prevent dangerous nuclear competition and advance the twin goals of nonproliferation and disarmament.

The CTBT Organization (CTBTO), established by the international community to provide international oversight for verification of the CTBT, has developed increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to effectively verify compliance with a “zero-yield” nuclear test ban. 

The CTBTO’s International Monitoring System, which is more than 90% complete and is operating on a continuous 24/7 basis, already serves to detect and deter nuclear test explosions, and provides additional data for other applications. The CTBTO, with technical support and financial contributions of key member states, has also refined the advanced tools and techniques necessary for on-site inspections, which can, once the treaty enters into force, be used to investigate suspect events.[1]

International support for the CTBT has been reaffirmed over the years through multiple UN General Assembly resolutions and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. 

  • UNSC Resolution 2310, adopted in September 2016, reaffirmed the widespread global support for the CTBT, reinforced the norm against testing, expressed strong support for the work of the CTBTO, and recognized that the 183 state signatories of the CTBT are obliged not to take any action contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty, including by conducting nuclear test explosions.
  • The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) negotiated earlier this year, though not endorsed by all of the CTBT’s signatories, further reinforces the CTBT and the non-testing norm. Under the TPNW, states-parties may not “test” nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. 

But our work is not yet done. In order to realize the full potential of the CTBT and to close the door on further nuclear testing, we need to secure the entry into force of the treaty.

Supporters of the CTBT need to undertake new and sustained diplomatic and outreach efforts to help underscore the political and security value of the treaty for each of the eight remaining CTBT “hold-out” states and the international community.

It is essential that the incoming co-chairs of the Article XIV process Belgium and Iraq—in coordination with the previous co-chairs Japan and Kazakhstan, other key CTBT states-parties, and civil society—develop a pragmatic, effective, and dynamic action plan to advance prospects for ratification and entry into force. That plan must also be designed to ensure that the financial and technical support for the CTBTO remains steady and strong so as to maintain the capacity to verify compliance with the treaty pending its entry into force. 

Concrete action on ratification of the CTBT by the remaining hold-out states would strengthen international and regional security, advance the goals and objectives outlined by Article VI of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and advance the interests of the eight states listed in Annex 2 that must still ratify to trigger the treaty’s entry into force.

India and Pakistan: Since their destabilizing tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in 1998, India and Pakistan have refused to reconsider the CTBT even though neither country has an interest in, or technical justification for, renewing nuclear testing. India and Pakistan could advance the cause of nuclear disarmament and substantially ease regional tensions by converting their unilateral test moratoria into legally binding commitments through the CTBT. Pakistan has said it supports the principles and goals of the CTBT and would welcome a legally binding test ban with India, but leaders in Islamabad have failed to take the first step by signing the CTBT.

India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its effort to win support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council would get a strong boost if leaders in New Delhi would signal their commitment to sign and ratify the CTBT. Pakistan could make a more convincing case that it is a “responsible” nuclear-armed state if it were to sign and ratify the CTBT. UN member states—particularly those in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in the NSG—that claim to be serious about their commitment to the CTBT and nuclear nonproliferation should insist that India and Pakistan sign the CTBT before they are considered for NSG membership.

The Middle East: Ratification of the CTBT by Israel, Egypt, and Iran—all of which must ratify to trigger CTBT entry into force—and Saudi Arabia would reduce nuclear weapon-related security concerns in the region. It would also help create the conditions necessary to achieve their common, stated goal of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. “As a stepping-stone towards this long-term objective, a ‘nuclear-test-free zone’ could be created in the Middle East, by way of CTBT ratifications by the remaining states of the region,” EU foreign policy High Representative Federica Mogherini suggested in June 2016 at the special ministerial meeting in Vienna to mark the twentieth anniversary of the treaty.

Israel was among the first nations to sign the treaty in 1996 and has been actively involved in the development of the treaty’s monitoring system and on-site inspection mechanisms. In 2016, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and CTBTO Merav Zafary-Odiz said: “a regional moratorium [on nuclear testing] could enhance security, and potentially lead to a future ratification of the CTBT. Israel has announced its commitment to a moratorium, it would be useful for others to do the same.”  Unfortunately, Israel has hesitated to take the next steps toward its own ratification of the CTBT—a move that would bring that nation closer to the nuclear nonproliferation mainstream and lend encouragement to other states in the region to follow suit.

In September 1999, at the first Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the CTBT, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s deputy foreign minister, spoke in support of the CTBT and later endorsed a UN conference statement calling for cooperation aimed at bringing the treaty into effect. Iran is understandably focused on the implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and eventual approval of the Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement. But if Iran fails to ratify the CTBT and fully cooperate with the operation of its IMS monitoring stations in the years ahead, it will add to concerns about its commitment under the JCPOA not to undertake prohibited weaponization-related activities. Iran could help assuage such concerns by making clear its support for, and intention to ratify, the CTBT in a timely manner.

China and the United States: China decided two decades ago to join the CTBT regime and became one of the treaty’s early signatories. China’s leaders and officials have consistently expressed their support for the CTBT, but it is clear that China has made a quiet decision to stop short of ratification until the United States completes its ratification process. To most observers outside of China, there do not appear to be any serious political impediments to Chinese ratification at this time, aside from U.S. non-ratification. Beijing’s failure to ratify has likely given cover for India not to consider ratification more seriously and has undermined the credibility of Beijing’s overtures to Pyongyang to refrain from further nuclear test explosions.

Chinese leadership is important and overdue, but stronger U.S. leadership is also essential. Much has changed since the Senate last examined the CTBT in 1999 and rejected the treaty by a 51-48 vote after a brief and highly partisan debate that centered on questions about the then-unproven stockpile stewardship program and then-unfinished global test-ban monitoring system.

The United States no longer has a technical or military need for a nuclear explosive testing option and it is clearly in U.S. national security interests to prevent other states from testing, which would create new nuclear tensions and enable advances in other states’ nuclear weapons arsenals.

President Trump’s administration has expressed support for the global nuclear test moratorium and the CTBTO’s international monitoring system. At the same time, his administration is being pressured by some in Congress to repudiate the U.S. commitment not to conduct nuclear explosive tests and to develop new types of low-yield nuclear weapons with “tailored” effects that could require nuclear explosive testing to confirm their performance. 

Now is the time for U.S. partners to remind the White House that the pursuit of new types of “more usable” nuclear weapons is destabilizing and that the current global testing taboo cannot be taken for granted. All states at this conference must make it a priority to remind the current U.S. administration, at the highest levels, that Washington has a responsibility and opportunity to reconsider and pursue ratification of the CTBT.

North Korea: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the only nation continuing to flout the global norm against nuclear testing. Their sixth nuclear weapon test was measured by the CTBTO as a magnitude 6.1 seismic event, which means the nuclear bomb produced an explosion in excess of 120 kilotons TNT equivalent, and perhaps much higher. This test, and any future nuclear tests, will undoubtedly help North Korea optimize its nuclear warhead designs for ballistic missile delivery. Although North Korea’s leaders may no longer be willing to negotiate away their nuclear weapons program altogether, they still appear to be willing to halt further nuclear testing in exchange for a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula. In a rare statement on the CTBT delivered in Moscow in 2012, a senior DPRK official said: “Once the CTBT becomes effective … then there is no doubt that it would make a great contribution to the world peace and stability. [However,] unless the U.S. hostile policy and its nuclear threats are completely withdrawn and a solid and permanent peace regime is in place on the Korean peninsula, the DPRK is left with no other choices but to steadily strengthen its self-defensive nuclear deterrent to the standard it deems necessary.”[2]

It is in the security interests of Washington, Beijing, and their allies and neighbors in Asia to seek to leverage the international sanctions against Pyongyang and immediately engage in negotiations to halt to further long-range ballistic missile testing and secure a permanent ban on further nuclear testing though its signature and ratification of the CTBT, which are key steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Moving closer to the goal of the CTBT’s formal entry into force is the task of every CTBT state-party because the CTBT is and will continue to be an essential pillar in the global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament enterprise. 

Doing so will, however, take political energy, and a more serious and sustained commitment

North Korea’s most recent nuclear test explosion is yet another reminder of why CTBT entry into force and the ongoing work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization is so vital to every state’s security interests: nuclear-armed and non-nuclear-weapon states; supporters as well as skeptics of the TPNW; and states inside and outside the NPT regime.

Finally, the devastating health and environmental effects of decades of nuclear testing around the world, which have adversely affected the lives of millions of people—particularly women and children and those in indigenous and underrepresented societies where a majority of the 2,056 nuclear test explosions have been conducted—serve as one reminder of what is at stake.

Our generation of governmental and nongovernmental leaders has a responsibility to those who have suffered the effects of nuclear testing and to future generations to do our part to finally bring the CTBT into force.

 

Endorsed by: 

Nobuyasu Abe, Commissioner, Japan Atomic Energy Commission,* and former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs 

Ms. Ray Acheson, Programme Director of Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 

Christine Ahn, Coordinator, Women Cross DMZ

Alimzhan Akhmetov, Director, Center for International Security and Policy, Kazakhstan

Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom, Harvard University*

John Burroughs, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy

Jeff Carter, J.D., Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility 

Thomas Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation 

Dr. Kate Dewes, Disarmament and Security Center

Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne* 

James Goodby, Deputy to General John Shalikashvili, Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for the CTBT, 2000-2001

Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute

Commander Robert Green RN (Ret.), Disarmament and Security Centre

Lisbeth Gronlund, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

Morton H. Halperin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arms Control, 1967-1969

Ira Helfand, Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

Laura S. H. Holgate, former U.S. Ambassador to the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Edward Ifft, Adjunct Professor, Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University*

Paul Ingram, Executive Director, British American Security Information Council (BASIC) 

Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshares 

Bonnie Jenkins, Joint Fellow, Brookings Institution* and University of Pennsylvania Perry World House,* and former Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the U.S. Department of State

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association

The Honorable Mike Kopetski, former Member of the U.S. Congress and co-sponsor of the 1992 legislation that effected a U.S. nuclear test moratorium 

Michael Krepon, Co-Founder, The Stimson Center

David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

Jenifer Mackby, former Secretary of the Negotiations on the CTBT and former Secretary of the CTBTO Verification Working Group

Kevin Martin, President, Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund

Götz Neuneck, Deputy Director Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) at the University of Hamburg

Dr. Andreas Nidecker, President, Basel Peace Office

Marzhan Nurzhan (Kazakhstan), Coordinator for CIS countries, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, Interim Convener of Abolition 2000 Youth and nuclear disarmament working group

Dr. William C. Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Jaap Ramaker, Chairperson of the 1996 CTBT Negotiations in Geneva, and former Special Representative of CTBT Ratifying States to Promote the Treaty

Tariq Rauf, former Head of Verification & Security Policy Coordination, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2002-2011

Kathy Crandall Robinson, Interim Director, Women's Action for New Directions & Women Legislators' Lobby 

Susi Snyder, Programme Manager, PAX, The Netherlands 

John F. Tierney, Executive Director, Council for a Livable World; Executive Director, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

Dianne Valentin, Chair of Board of Directors, Women's Action for New Directions

Frank von Hippel, Assistant Director for National Security, white House Office of Science and Global Security, 1993-1994 

Paul F. Walker, International Program Director, Green Cross International

Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending, Friends Committee on National Legislation 

David Wright, PhD, Co-Director and Senior Scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

*Listed for identification purposes only


[1] As outlined in UNSC 2310 and mandated in the charter for the establishment the CTBTO Provisional Technical Secretariat (UN document A/54/884, dated 26 May 2000), the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council may call upon the Executive Secretary to supply information or provide other assistance relating to the treaty, including technical reports on the DPRK nuclear tests, the status of global nuclear test monitoring, and activities related to efforts to facilitate entry into force of the CTBT. 

[2] Jang Song Chol, Statement to “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT): Prospects for Making Its Global Benefits Permanent,” presented at the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, September 6, 2012. See: http://ceness-russia.org/data/page/p915_1.pdf

Nuclear Restraint Agreements Under Serious Threat

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Volume 9, Issue 7, September 5, 2017

Since the dawn of the nuclear age over 70 years ago, rarely has the world faced as difficult an array of nuclear weapons-related security challenges as it is facing now. Unfortunately, Congress will soon enact legislation that could further imperil the global nuclear order.
 
The Senate is scheduled to take up the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Authorization Act as early as this week. The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81. Both bills contain several problematic provisions that if enacted into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to several longstanding, bipartisan arms control and nonproliferation efforts and increase the risks of renewed nuclear arms competition with Russia.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the East Room of the White House on December 8, 1987. (Photo credit: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have worsened over the past few years, thanks to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, alleged violation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and support for the Assad regime in Syria. Nevertheless, the two countries continue to share common interests. In particular, as the possessors of over 90 percent of the roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, they have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. The downward spiral in relations makes these objectives all the more urgent.
 
While some meaningful cooperation continues, such as adherence to the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, there is no ongoing dialogue on further nuclear risk reduction steps.
 
Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen the existing architecture of arms control and nonproliferation agreements, key pillars of which have their origin in the vision of President Ronald Reagan. These agreements constrain Russia’s nuclear forces, provide for stability, predictability, and transparency in the bilateral relationship, and have only increased in value as the U.S.-Russia relationship has deteriorated.
 
Below is a summary of the current status and arguments in support of four key agreements put at risk by the Senate and/or House NDAAs. 
 


The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)
 
Background: The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) requires that the United States and Russia each reduce their deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. The agreement, which is slated to expire in 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.
 
Current Status: So far both sides are implementing the agreement and there are no indications that they do not plan to continue to do so. Russia has indicated that it is interested in beginning talks with the United States on extending the treaty, but the Trump administration has yet to respond to these overtures. In January phone call with President Putin, President Trump reportedly dismissed the idea of an extension and called the treaty a “bad deal.” The House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would prohibit the use of funds to extend the New START treaty unless Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART

Key Points:

  • New START caps the size of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and provides the United States with additional tools to monitor Russia’s forces. The treaty includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with treaty limits and enable the United States to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile, which aids U.S. military planning.
  • The deterioration of the U.S.-Russian relationship has only increased the value of New START. The treaty provides for bilateral stability, predictability, and transparency, thereby bounding the current tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
  • The U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START. For example, in March 2017, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), “I am big supporter of the New START Agreement.” Hyten added that “bilateral, verifiable arms control agreements are essential to our ability to provide an effective deterrent.”
  • Connecting New START extension with INF treaty compliance is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021. If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
 
Background: The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. Russia and the United States destroyed a total of 2,692 short/medium/intermediate-range missiles by the 1991 deadline.
 
Current Status: The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles in violation of the treaty. Moscow denies it is violating the agreement, and instead has accused Washington of breaching the accord. Both the House-passed and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the FY 2018 NDAA would authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/INFtreaty
 
Key Points:

  • The United States and Russia need to work to preserve the INF Treaty. This should include using the Special Verification Commission, the treaty’s dispute resolution mechanism, to address mutual concerns. The Trump administration should make it clear to Moscow that so long as Russia remains in violation of the treaty, the United States will pursue steps to reaffirm and buttress its commitment to the defense of those allies threatened by the treaty-noncompliant missiles.
  • Development of a new GLCM sets the stage for Washington to violate the agreement and would take the focus off Russia's violation. Russia could respond by publicly repudiating the treaty and deploying large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.
  • Development of a new GLCM is militarily unnecessary and Pentagon has not asked for one. The United States can legally deploy air- and sea-launched systems that can threaten the same Russian targets. There is no reason to believe that development of a new GLCM will convince Russia to return to compliance. A new GLCM would also take years to develop and suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements. The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the INF provision on requiring a new GLCM.
  • NATO does not support a new GLCM and attempting to force it upon the alliance would be incredibly divisive. It is thus a weapon to nowhere. A divided NATO would also be a gift to Russia.
  • Mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the INF treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The 1990 Treaty on Open Skies
 
Background: The Treaty on Open Skies, which entered into force in 2002 and has 34 states parties, aims to increase confidence in and transparency on the military activities of states, particularly in Europe, by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants for information gathering purposes. The parties have equal yearly quotas of overflights and must make the information they acquire available to all Treaty parties.
 
Current Status: The United States has raised numerous concerns about Russia’s compliance with the treaty. Republican lawmakers have voiced concern that Russian flights under the treaty, which now employ more advanced sensors and cameras as allowed by the treaty, amount to spy missions. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would annually bar, for each of the next five years, any U.S. Open Skies Treaty skies flights until Pentagon and intelligence community submit a plan for all of the treaty flights in the coming year. The bill would also bar DOD from acquiring a more effective, more timely, more reliable digital imaging system for conducting flights over Russian territory.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/openskies

Key Points:

  • The Open Skies Treaty provides a significant contribution to the security and stability of North America and Europe. According to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear and Strategic Policy Anita E. Friedt, almost a dozen U.S. and NATO member flights over Ukraine and Western Russia in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis “resulted in valuable data and insights.” The treaty mandates information-sharing about military forces that increases transparency among members, thereby contributing to stability and improving each participating state’s national security.
  • U.S. allies continue to value and rely on the Open Skies Treaty for imagery collection. The United States and its allies typically carry out many more overflights than Russia. These flights strengthen ties between the United States and its allies and reassure non-NATO members on Russia’s periphery.
  • Russia would gain a unilateral advantage as a result of restricting funding for upgrading aircraft used by the United States for treaty observation flights. This would stymie U.S. efforts to match Russian sensor upgrades, thereby limiting the value of the Open Skies treaty to U.S. national security.
  • The Russian sensors and cameras in question do not pose a threat to U.S. security. According to Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, director of Navy Strategic Systems Programs, all states party to the Open Skies treaty are permitted to certify new sensors and aircraft. Furthermore, he said, “the resolution of Open Skies imagery is similar to that available in commercial satellite imagery.” He added that Russian information compiled as a result of Open Skies flights is “of only incremental value” among Russia’s many means of intelligence gathering. 

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
 
Background: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is the the intergovernmental organization that promotes the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which has yet to enter force, and maintains the global International Monitoring System (IMS) to deter and detect nuclear test explosions.
 
Current Status: The United States currently contributes nearly a quarter of the annual CTBTO budget. In April 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson joined with other Foreign Ministers at the G-7 foreign minister summit in a statement expressing support for the CTBTO. The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request would fund the U.S. contribution to the CTBTO at roughly the same level as the Obama administration. The House-passed version of the FY 2018 NDAA would prohibit funding for the CTBTO and calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2310 does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT.

At-a-Glance Factsheet: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/test-ban-treaty-at-a-glance

Key Points:

  • The CTBTO and IMS support and provide detection capabilities that supplement U.S. national intelligence capabilities to detect nuclear testing. Reducing U.S. funding for the CTBTO would  adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS.
  • The CTBTO is a neutral source of information that can help to mobilize international action against any state that violates the global norm against nuclear testing. U.S. action to restrict funding could prompt other states to reduce their own funding for the CTBTO or lead states to withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing. Contrary to what the Cotton-Wilson bill implies,
  • Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states, including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, it encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so. It also takes note of a Sept. 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 
  • Asserting that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory would signal to other states that that the United States may be seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear testing. With North Korea having conducted a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the CTBTO and the global nuclear testing taboo. 

—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

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Instead of rushing to hasten their demise, Congress must seek to preserve and strengthen these four key pillars of arms control and nonproliferation.

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ACA-YPFP NextGen Voices: The Untold Story in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Saga

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What: Short Film "Marshalling Peace" and
NextGen Discussion

When Tuesday, August 29
7:00-8:30pm

Where1619 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20036 

On August 29 - the International Day Against Nuclear Testing - ​NextGen filmmaker Autumn Bordner joins Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) and the Arms Control Association for a​n exclusive​ showing of Marshalling Peace​. Autumn traveled to the Marshall Islands to research the lingering effects of U.S. nuclear testing conducted there during the Cold War. Her short film documents the tiny nation's legal battle against nuclear weapons​-holding superpowers​, and the​ devastating effects of the U.S. nuclear testing program on the Marshallese people.

Autumn and the Association's Executive Director Daryl Kimball will facilitate a discussion on the future of nuclear weapons threats and the ways NextGen leaders can shape today's and tomorrow's nuclear policies. YPFP's Danielle Preskitt (a former Association intern) will moderate.

The Panelists:

Autumn Bordner is a rising second year at Stanford Law School. Prior to matriculating at Stanford, Autumn worked as an environmental consultant at ICF, and as a fellow with the K1 Project, Center for Nuclear Studies, a research institute that she co-founded as an undergraduate at Columbia University. Autumn is also a member of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Youth Group. In this capacity, she is working to advance the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Daryl G. Kimball became the Executive Director of the Arms Control Association in September 2001. The Arms Control Association is a private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to public education and support of effective arms control measures pertaining to nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons. Find his complete bio here.

                                                                 

Description: 

ACA and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP) are hosting an event featuring a​n exclusive​ showing of Marshalling Peace and a discussion on the future of nuclear weapons threats and the ways NextGen leaders can shape today's and tomorrow's nuclear policies.

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U.S. Policy on North Korea: More Pressure, But Where’s the “Engagement?”

The UN Security Council responded to North Korea’s two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July by unanimously passing new sanctions on North Korea over the weekend. But without a more concerted effort to engage Pyongyang in negotiations, these measures stand little chance of altering North Korea’s nuclear calculus. While the additional Security Council sanctions in Resolution 2371 send a strong signal to North Korea that there are consequences for flouting international prohibitions, sanctions alone are not a strategy for addressing the North Korean nuclear threat. It is past...

Congress Puts Bipartisan Arms Control Policies at Risk

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Volume 9, Issue 5, July 17, 2017

The future of U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense policy is at a crossroads. The Trump administration is conducting comprehensive reviews—scheduled to be completed by the end of the year—that could result in significant changes to U.S. policy to reducing nuclear weapons risks.

As the possessors of over 90 percent of the world's roughly 15,000 nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have a special responsibility to avoid direct conflict and reduce nuclear risks. Yet, the U.S.-Russia relationship is under significant strain, due to to Moscow’s election interference, annexation of Crimea, continued destabilization of Ukraine, and support for the brutal Assad regime in Syria. These tensions have also put put immense pressure on the arms control relationship.

It is against this backdrop that the House and Senate Armed Services Committee versions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) include provisions that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.

The House approved its version of the NDAA July 14 by a vote of 344-81 and the Senate could take up its bill later this month. 

The problematic arms control provisions in the bills would undermine U.S. security by eroding stability between the world's two largest nuclear powers, increasing the risks of nuclear competition, and further alienating allies already unsettled by President Donald Trump’s commitment to their security. In fact, some are so radical that they have even drawn opposition from the White House and Defense Department.

The bills also fail to provide effective oversight of the rising costs of the government’s more than $1 trillion-plan to sustain and upgrade U.S. nuclear forces and propose investments in expanding U.S. missile defenses that make neither strategic, technical, or fiscal sense.

Sowing the Seeds of the INF Treaty’s Destruction

The United States has accused Russia of testing and deploying ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The treaty, which remains in force, required the United States and the then-Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA authorize programs of record and provide funding for research and development on a new U.S. road-mobile GLCM with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The House bill requires development of a conventional missile whereas the Senate bill would authorize a dual-capable (i.e., nuclear) missile.

The House bill also includes a provision stating that if the president determines that Russia remains in violation of the treaty 15 months after enactment of the legislation, the prohibitions set forth in the treaty will no longer be binding on the United States. A similar provision could be offered as an amendment to the Senate bill.

These provisions are drawn from legislation introduced in February by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in the Senate and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) in the House to “provide for compliance enforcement regarding Russian violations” of the INF Treaty.

Development of a new treaty-prohibited GLCM is militarily unnecessary, would suck funding from other military programs for which there are already requirements, divide NATO, and give Russia an easy excuse to publicly repudiate the treaty and deploy large numbers of noncompliant missiles without any constraints.

The report accompanying the Senate bill notes that the Senate “does not intend for the United States to enter into violation of the INF Treaty.” (The treaty does not ban research and development of treaty-prohibited capabilities.) But this claim is belied by the report’s statement that development of a GLCM is needed to “close the capability gap opened” by Russia. Moreover, supporters of a new GLCM also argue it is needed to counter China, which is not a party to the treaty.

Before rushing to develop a new weapon that the Pentagon has yet to ask for and NATO is unlikely to support, the administration and Congress must at the very least address concerns about the suitability and cost-effectiveness of a new GLCM. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to the bill on the House floor that would have done just that, but it was defeated by a vote of 173-249.

Meanwhile, mandating that the United States in effect withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not return to compliance by the end of next year raises constitutional concerns. If Congress can say the United States is not bound by its obligations under the INF Treaty, what is to stop it from doing the same regarding other treaties?

The administration's statement of policy on the House NDAA objected to the House INF provision on requiring a new GLCM, stating "[t]his provision unhelpfully ties the Administration to a specific missile system, which would limit potential military response options.” The statement also noted that bill would “raise concerns among NATO allies and could deprive the Administration of the flexibility to make judgments about the timing and nature of invoking our legal remedies under the treaty.”

Instead of responding to Russia’s violation by taking steps that could leave the United States holding the bag for the INF treaty’s demise, Congress should emphasize the importance of preserving the treaty and encourage both sides to more energetically pursue a diplomatic resolution to the compliance controversy. Lawmakers should also encourage the Trump administration to pursue firm but measured steps to ensure Russia does not gain a military advantage by violating the treaty and reaffirm its commitment to the defense of those allies that would be the potential targets of Russia’s noncompliant missile.

Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face on New START

One of the few remaining bright spots in the U.S.-Russia relationship is 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Signed in 2010, the treaty requires each side to reduce its deployed strategic nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems by 2018. It also includes a comprehensive suite of monitoring and verification provisions that help ensure compliance with these limits.

The agreement, which is slated to expire Feb. 5, 2021, can be extended by up to five years if both Moscow and Washington agree.  The House bill includes a provision that would prohibit the use of funds to extend New START until Russia returns to compliance with the INF treaty. This is senseless and counterproductive. By “punishing” Russia’s INF violation in this way, the United States would simply free Russia to expand the number of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States after New START expires in 2021.

If the treaty is allowed to lapse, there will be no limits on Russia’s strategic nuclear forces for the first time since the early-1970s. Moreover, the United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

For these reasons and more, the U.S. military and U.S. allies continue to strongly support New START.

Undermining the Norm Against Nuclear Testing

A small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and undermine international support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the global nuclear test moratorium.

Sen. Cotton and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the CTBTO and undermine the U.S. obligation – as a signatory to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – not to conduct nuclear test explosions.

Rep. Wilson successfully offered the bill as an amendment to the House NDAA and Sen. Cotton could seek to do the same on the Senate bill.

With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not weaken, the global nuclear testing taboo

More information on the problematic provision in the House bill is detailed in a recent issue brief on CTBTO funding.

Nuclear Weapons Spending Run Amok

The Trump administration’s first Congressional budget request pushes full steam ahead with the Obama administration’s excessive, all-of-the-above approach to upgrading the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Both the House and Senate bills authorize the requested level of funding for these programs, and even increase funding for some programs beyond what the Trump administration requested.

As the projected costs for programs designed to replace and upgrade the nuclear arsenal continue to rise, Congress must demand greater transparency about long-term costs, strengthen oversight over high-risk programs, and consider options to delay, curtail, or cancel programs to save taxpayer dollars while meeting deterrence requirements.

A February 2017 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that the United States will spend $400 billion (in then-year dollars) on nuclear weapons between fiscal years 2017 and 2026. The new projection is an increase of $52 billion, or 15 percent, over the CBO’s most recent previous estimate of the 10-year cost of nuclear forces, which was published in January 2015 and put the total cost at $348 billion.

In fact, the CBO’s latest projection suggest that the cost of nuclear forces could greatly exceed $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

What makes the growing cost to sustain the nuclear mission so worrisome for military planners is that costs are scheduled to peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs. Numerous Pentagon officials and outside experts have warned about the affordability problem posed by the current approach and that it cannot be sustained without significant and sustained increases to defense spending or cuts to other military priorities.

Unfortunately, the House rejected two Democratic floor amendments that would have shed greater light on the multidecade costs of U.S. nuclear forces. One amendment would have required CBO to extend the timeframe of its biennial report on the cost of nuclear weapons from 10 years to 30 years. Another would have required extending the timeframe of a Congressionally mandated report submitted annually by Defense Department and National Nuclear Security Administration from 10 years to 25 years.

In addition, the House defeated by a vote of 169-254 an amendment offered by Rep. Blumenauer that would have restricted funding for the program to develop a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles at the FY 2017 enacted level until the administration completes its Nuclear Posture Review and a detailed assessment of the need for the program.

Though the administration requested a major increase for the new missile and associated warhead refurbishment program in FY 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis has repeatedly stated that he is still evaluating the need for the weapon.

The House Rules Committee also prevented debate on a floor amendment that would have required the Pentagon to release the value of the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp. in October 2015. The department has refused to release the contract value citing classification concerns.

Tripling-Down on Missile Defense Despite Technical Flaws

Both the House and Senate bills authorize significant increases in funding for U.S. ballistic missile defense programs. The House bill authorizes an increase of $2.5 billion above the administration’s FY 2018 budget request of $7.9 billion for the Missile Defense Agency. The Senate bill authorizes a $630 million increase.

The bills also include provisions that would authorize a significant expansion of the ground-based midcourse (GMD) defense system in Alaska and California, which is designed to protect against limited long-range ballistic missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, and accelerate advanced technology programs to increase the capability of U.S. missile defenses. The GMD system has suffered from numerous reliability problems and has a success rate of just over 50 percent in controlled and scripted flight intercept tests.

In addition, the House bill includes a provision that would require the Pentagon to submit a plan for the development of a space-based missile defense interceptors and authorize $30 million for a space test bed to conduct research and development on such interceptors. The House bill would also require the Pentagon, pursuant to improving the defense of Hawaii, to conduct an intercept test of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile against an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) target. The interceptor, which is still under development, is designed to defend against medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and the department has no public plans to test it versus an ICBM.

Rushing to deploy more unreliable GMD interceptors or building additional long-range interceptor sites is not a winning strategy to stay ahead of the North Korean ICBM threat. Quantity is not a substitute for quality.

Any consideration of building and deploying additional homeland interceptors or interceptor sites should wait until a new ground-based midcourse defense kill vehicle under development is successfully tested under operationally realistic conditions (including against ICBM targets and realistic countermeasures). The first test of the new kill vehicle under these conditions is not scheduled until 2020 and deployment is not scheduled until 2022.

In addition, future testing and deployment of new capabilities should not be schedule-driven, but based on the maturity of the technology and successful testing under operationally realistic conditions. Accelerating development programs risks saddling them with cost overruns, schedule delays, and test failures, as has been the case with previous missile-defense programs.

Despite numerous nonpartisan studies that have been conducted during both Republican and Democratic administrations which concluded that a spaced-based missile defense is unfeasible and unaffordable, a small faction of missile defense supporters continues to push the idea. Most recently, a 2012 report from the National Academy of Sciences declared that even a limited space system geared to longer-burning liquid fueled threats would cost about $200 billion to acquire and have a $300 billion 20-year life cycle cost (in FY 2010 dollars), which would be at least 10 times any other defense approach. 

While missile defense has a role to play as part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the North Korean missile threat, it’s neither as capable nor as significant as many seem to hope. More realism is needed about the limitations of defenses and the longstanding obstacles that have prevented them from working as intended.

The potential blowback of an expansion of U.S. missile defense capabilities from Russia and China must also be considered. Missile defense does not provide an escape route from the vulnerability of our allies, deployed forces, and citizens in the region to North Korea’s nuclear and conventional missiles.—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament policy

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The House and Senate Armed Services Committee are currently considering defense authorization legislation that if passed into law would deal a major, if not mortal, blow to longstanding, bipartisan arms control efforts.

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Amendment on CTBTO Funding Would Undermine Global Test Ban

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Volume 9, Issue 4, July 2017

Unfortunately, a small but influential group of Republican lawmakers are seeking to cut U.S. funding for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and undermine international support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the global nuclear test moratorium.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the CTBTO.

The House approved the language as an amendment by Wilson to the National Defense Authorization Act; the Senate will consider a similar amendment from Sen. Cotton when it considers the NDAA later this week.*

The amendment purports not to restrict U.S. funding specifically for the CTBTO's International Monitoring System, but in practice any significant reduction in U.S. technical and financial support for the CTBTO would:

  • adversely impact the organization’s ability to operate and maintain existing nuclear test monitoring stations. This is due to the fact that a wide range of organization’s personnel and assets directly or indirectly support the IMS. This includes staff time and technical support for the International Data Centre in Vienna, which processes information provided by IMS operations; and
  • prompt other states to restrict their funding for the CTBTO or possibly withhold data from CTBTO monitoring stations that are based in their territory, thus undermining the capabilities of the system to detect and deter clandestine nuclear testing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks with Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini during the April 2017 G7 foreign ministers meeting in Italy. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]The Wilson amendment would run counter to the policy position articulated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who joined with his G7 foreign ministerial counterparts to extoll the value of the CTBTO in their April joint communique on nonproliferation and disarmament. They said in part:

We believe that all States should maintain all existing voluntary moratoria on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosion, and those States that have not instituted such moratoria should do so. The verification regime being established by the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, in particular the International Monitoring System and International Data Centre, has proven its effectiveness by providing substantive and reliable data on the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea. We strongly encourage all interested States to complete the IMS as a matter of priority.

The proposed Wilson amendment also seeks to undermine the U.S. obligation—as a signatory to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty—not to conduct nuclear test explosions. The amendment calls on Congress to declare that the September 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2310 does not “obligate…nor does it impose an obligation on the United States to refrain from actions that would run counter to the object and purpose” of the CTBT, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996.

Contrary to what the Cotton-Wilson bill implies, Resolution 2310 (which was endorsed by 42 states, including Israel) does not impose any new obligations on the United States. Rather, it:

  • encourages states to “provide the support required” to the CTBTO and the IMS, and urges states to refrain from nuclear testing and urges those states that have not ratified to do so; and
  • also takes note of a September 15 joint statement by the five permanent Security Council members that formally “recognized” that a nuclear explosion would “defeat the object and purpose of the CTBT.” 

The G7 Foreign Minsters’ April 11 Joint Communique—endorsed by Tillerson—also “recalls" UN Security Council Resolution 2310 as an important contribution to the effort to ensure all states that have signed the CTBT do not go back on their promise not to conduct nuclear weapon test explosions. 

However, if Congress were to assert that the United States is not required to respect our obligations as a CTBT signatory not to conduct nuclear test explosions, it would signal to other states that that the United States may be seeking to back out of its commitment to a global and verifiable nuclear test ban and is considering the resumption of nuclear testing.

That’s not a smart move. With North Korea threatening to conduct a sixth nuclear test explosion, it is essential that the United States reinforce, not undermine, the global nuclear testing taboo

Backing off the United States' historically strong commitment to halting nuclear testing by any country at this time could trigger a dangerous chain reaction by other nuclear-armed states and would run afoul of key U.S. allies who strongly oppose nuclear testing and who support the CTBT. U.S. financial support to the CTBTO is critical to detect and deter nuclear weapons testing and it enhances national and international security—and should not be subjected to the restrictions proposed in the Wilson amendment.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director

*This sentence was updated July 17, 2017 to reflect that the House amendment by Wilson was adopted by a voice vote.

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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced legislation on Feb.7 to “restrict” funding for the CTBTO. The bill will be offered as a floor amendment by Wilson to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which is being considered this week.

New Leadership, Opportunities on the Korean Peninsula

The election of Mr. Moon Jae-in as South Korea’s next president could lead to an important and helpful shift in the international community’s approach to halting and reversing North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs. If Moon stays true to the policies outlined in his campaign , South Korea’s approach to North Korea will likely shift from “pressure only” to “pressure with pragmatic engagement.” This could improve the chances for lowering of tensions with North Korea and the resumption of talks designed to verifiably halt and then, later, reverse North Korea’s nuclear...

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