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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
U.S. Nuclear Policy & Budget

U.S. to Test INF Treaty-Range Missiles


April 2019
By Shervin Taheran

Just weeks after declaring its intent to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the United States announced plans to test two missiles this year with ranges that exceed the treaty’s limits. The tests are scheduled to take place after Aug. 2, when the U.S. treaty withdrawal is set to take effect, Defense Department officials told reporters March 13.

The United States plans to test a ground-based variant of the Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile, shown here in 2003. (Photo: Christopher Senenk/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)First, reportedly in August, the Pentagon plans to test a mobile, ground-launched variant of the Navy’s Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile, with a 1,000-kilometer range. The new cruise missile could be deployed within 18 months, according to defense officials.

Next, a mobile, ground-launched ballistic missile with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers, is likely to be tested in November. The officials said this new weapon will not be ready for deployment for at least five years.

The United States announced on Feb. 2 that it would immediately suspend its adherence to the INF Treaty and withdraw completely from the pact in six months, citing Russian deployments of cruise missiles that U.S. officials said violated the treaty’s range limits. (See ACT, March 2019.) The Pentagon would cancel the scheduled U.S. tests if Russia returns to compliance with the INF Treaty before the U.S. withdrawal, the defense officials said March 13.

There have been no discussions with allies in Europe and Asia about hosting the new missiles, the officials said, but one speculated that the new ballistic missile could be deployed in Guam, a U.S. territory located about 3,000 kilometers from China.

The Defense Department has not yet indicated the cost of developing the new weapons. Last year, Congress approved $48 million for research and development on “concepts and options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems” in response to Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Russia has disputed U.S. claims that its 9M729 cruise missile violates the treaty, but reacted to the U.S. treaty suspension by announcing its own plans to develop weapons that exceed treaty restrictions and by officially matching the U.S. treaty suspension on March 4.

The same day the U.S. suspension was announced, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered preparations for the development of a ground-launched adaptation of the Kalibr nuclear-capable, sea-launched cruise missile. He added that Russia would “not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons, if we develop weapons of this kind, neither in Europe nor anywhere else, until U.S. weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has yet to develop plans to prevent Russia from building more ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in the absence of the INF Treaty, according to a senior military leader.

“I don’t know that we have a plan today. I know we’re working on what we think that plan might be,” said U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of the U.S. European Command and the NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, in March 5 congressional testimony.

When dealing with peer competitors such as Russia, he added, “we should look toward treaty capabilities in order to provide some stability.”

Treaty-prohibited missiles to be tested after INF Treaty termination.

Trump Budget Boosts Nuclear Efforts


April 2019
By Kingston Reif

Consistent with the recommendations of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request would continue plans to expand U.S. nuclear weapon capabilities.

The Ohio-class USS Nebraska submarine returns to port in Washington in 2018.  The Trump administration is seeking funds to complete development of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (Photo: Michael Smith/U.S. Navy) The ultimate fate of the request, submitted to Congress March 11, remains uncertain as Democrats, particularly in the House, have signaled strong opposition to several controversial funding proposals. Their concerns include administration plans to develop two additional low-yield nuclear weapons and two conventionally armed, ground-launched missiles currently prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

The budget submission illustrates the rising cost of the nuclear mission and the challenge those expenses may pose to the administration’s other national security priorities.

A Congressional Budget Office report in February estimates that the United States will spend $494 billion on nuclear weapons from fiscal years 2019 through 2028. That is an increase of $94 billion, or 23 percent, from the CBO’s previous 10-year estimate of $400 billion, which was published in January 2017. (See ACT, March 2019.)

The Trump administration’s budget proposal contains increases for several Defense and Energy department nuclear weapons systems. The request does not change the planned development timelines for these programs.

The largest increase sought is for the nuclear weapons account of the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The budget request calls for $12.4 billion, an increase of $1.3 billion above the fiscal year 2019 appropriation and $530 million above the projection in the fiscal year 2019 budget request.

The request includes funds for the continued development of two missile systems with ranges prohibited by the INF Treaty, but despite numerous queries by Arms Control Today and other outlets, the Pentagon has yet to divulge the amount.

Defense Department officials told a group of reporters March 13 that the Pentagon is planning to test a ground-launched cruise missile and a ballistic missile by the end of this year.

The announcement came just over a month after the Trump administration announced on Feb. 2 that it would withdraw from the treaty on Aug. 2 unless Russia corrects alleged compliance violations with the agreement. (See ACT, March 2019.)

The budget request for nuclear weapons programs is part of the overall $750 billion request for national defense. That figure includes the Defense Department’s regular budget activities and the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons programs.

New Nuclear Capabilities

The budget request would finish development of a small number of low-yield nuclear warheads for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and begin studies of a new fleet of sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs).

The Trump administration’s NPR report released in February 2018 called for developing two additional low-yield nuclear weapons primarily to counter Russia’s alleged willingness to use or threaten to use tactical nuclear weapons on a limited basis in a crisis or at lower levels of conflict, a strategy known as escalate to de-escalate. (See ACT, March 2018.)

Congress last year approved nearly $90 million for the two additional systems, but not without strong opposition from Democrats. (See ACT, November 2018.) House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has said he plans to oppose continued funding for the weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

The NNSA is seeking $10 million for the low-yield SLBM warhead, $55 million less than the fiscal year 2019 appropriation. The request states that production of the warhead, known as the W76-2, will finish by the end of fiscal year 2019 and final program documentation and close-out activities will be completed fiscal year 2020. The agency said in February that it had completed the first production unit for the warhead.

The Defense Department request includes funds to support production of the low-yield variant, although the exact amount is not specified.

The Pentagon is also seeking increased funding to “conduct an Analysis of Alternatives study in support of” developing a new SLCM, but the specific amount has not been announced. Such an analysis is one of the first steps the Pentagon takes in the usually lengthy process to acquire a new weapons system.

The NNSA request includes as much as $12 million to begin a study of the warhead for a new SLCM.

The Nuclear Triad

The budget request would keep on schedule the Defense Department’s programs to sustain and rebuild the U.S. triad of nuclear-armed missiles, submarines, and bombers and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure.

The request includes $2.2 billion for the Navy program to build 12 Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. The Air Force is seeking $3 billion to continue development of the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, $713 million for the long-range standoff weapon program to replace the existing air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), and $678 million for the program to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a missile system called the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

The NNSA is asking for $793 million to continue developing and begin production of the B61-12 gravity bomb life-extension program and $899 million to refurbish the existing warhead that would be delivered by the new ALCM under development by the Air Force. The request for the ALCM warhead is $244 million more than the current appropriation and $185 million above last year’s projection for fiscal year 2020.

The request also includes $112 million to continue the design of the W87-1 warhead to replace the W78 warhead currently carried by the Minuteman III ICBM and an increase of more than $16 million above last year’s appropriation to sustain the B83-1 gravity bomb.

The NPR report recommended retaining the B83-1 gravity bomb, the only remaining megaton-class warhead in the U.S. stockpile, reversing the Obama administration’s proposal that the warhead be retired once confidence in the B61-12 is achieved.

New delivery vehicles and warheads are featured in fiscal year 2020 budget request.

Pentagon Asks More for Autonomous Weapons


April 2019
By Michael Klare

The Defense Department is seeking sharp spending increases to its autonomous weapons programs, according to the fiscal year 2020 budget request submitted to Congress in March. The request reflects a concerted drive to prepare U.S. military forces for possible high-intensity combat with rivals Russia and China. All three nations have expanded efforts to develop autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and hypersonic weapons. (See ACT, March 2019.)

The Navy is seeking to build four unmanned submarines based on this prototype vessel, the Echo Voyager. (Image: Boeing)The Pentagon request asks for a nearly tenfold increase to the Navy’s spending on large unmanned surface vehicles, from $49 million in 2019 to $447 million in 2020. The Army aims to boost robotics development from $74 to $115 million. All told, the Pentagon plans to spend $3.7 billion on unmanned systems in fiscal year 2020, plus $0.9 billion on AI systems and $2.6 billion on hypersonic weapons.

These added investments in advanced technologies are needed, officials claim, to counter Russia and China in the highly contested environments expected of future wars. “This is about looking at the future differently than we’ve looked at the past,” said Army Lt. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, the joint staff’s director of force structure, at a March 12 Pentagon briefing on the 2020 budget proposal. “It is an acknowledgment that we need to start to consider other ways of operating to enhance our lethality, as our adversaries adapt and change their ways of operating.”

The Navy stands out from the other services for its strong emphasis on developing AI-empowered unmanned systems, such as unmanned surface, underwater, and aerial vehicles. Such systems are needed, the Navy says, to augment its combat punch in hotly contested areas at lower cost and with fewer casualties.

The most striking item in the Navy’s 2020 budget proposal is the request for unmanned surface vehicles, specifically the design and production of two combat-ready, ocean-going vessels. This new program, says the Navy, will be “designed to provide low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions and augment the Navy’s manned surface fleet.” Although details are sketchy (the Navy may be unsure of exactly what it wants) the proposed vessel is intended to undertake many of the same missions of traditional surface warships but without a human crew. A prototype vessel, the Sea Hunter, was largely intended for anti-submarine warfare, but the new proposed vessel will also provide “anti-surface warfare and strike capacity,” notes the Pentagon’s arms acquisition request for 2020.

In addition, the Navy is seeking to begin deploying unmanned undersea vehicles, or unmanned submarines. In February, it awarded $43 million to Boeing to build four Orca extra-large unmanned undersea vehicles. These 51-foot-long vessels, derived from Boeing’s Echo Voyager diesel-electric submersible, are designed to travel up to 6,500 nautical miles autonomously and to perform a variety of combat missions, including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.

The defense budget request seeks considerable funding to develop unmanned aerial vehicles. The Navy, for example, intends to spend $671 million in 2020, up from $519 million in 2019, on the MQ-25 Stingray, a drone aircraft intended for aircraft carrier-based operations. Once deployed, the Stingray will be used for a variety of functions, including aerial refueling and reconnaissance missions. The Air Force is testing the concept of an armed unmanned aerial vehicle designed to accompany F-15 and F-35 aircraft in combat, possibly to attack enemy air defense systems or to shield piloted aircraft from enemy fire. Under its Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology program, the Air Force conducted the first flight test of its XQ-58A Valkyrie drone of this type on March 5 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz.

The research, development, test, and evaluation section of the defense budget request contains additional requests for spending on AI systems, robotics, hypersonics, and other advanced technologies. The Army’s request for robotics development, for example, rises to $115 million in 2020 after receiving $38 million in 2018 and $74 million in 2019. Combined spending by the Army and Air Force on hypersonic weapons aims to increase from $509 million in 2019 to $804 million in 2020. Large sums are also sought under such vague headings as “emerging technologies” and “advanced technology development,” typically showing large increases in 2020 over previous years.

Official statements supporting the budget request indicate that the Pentagon plans to rush procurement of new autonomous weaponry despite promises to devise ethical principles for using such systems. In January, the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board announced an initiative to solicit public and professional views to help forge a “set of principles for developing, testing, and deploying” AI systems. (See ACT, March 2019.) Its recommendations are expected this summer, but no budget request documents mention the board’s effort.

U.S. presses forward on funding autonomous weapons while not mentioning ethics of use.

Germany Seeks Control for New Weapons


Potentially dangerous emerging technologies require a new multilateral approach to prevent their misuse, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told a March 15 security conference in Berlin.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has proposed an international approach to control dangerous new weapons technologies. (Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)“New technologies are far more susceptible to proliferation, manipulation, and misuse than conventional weapons,” he said. “The question is whether we are in control of technology or whether ultimately it controls us.”

Maas outlined a four-part approach “to rethink arms control.” First, citing the risk of automated conflicts escalating quickly out of control, he called for creating rules to ban fully autonomous weapons systems and to require ensure effective human control over all lethal weapons systems. (See ACT, March 2019.)

Second, he urged establishing an international dialogue about the swift advancements and proliferation of missile technology, including to nonstate actors who “already have access to short-range missiles.”

Third, Maas called for “articulating universal behavioral norms and standards in cyberspace” to protect the common interests of the international community.

Lastly, Maas highlighted concerns about the biotechnology sector and announced that Germany would “work to establish a permanent body of experts and scientists under the umbrella of the Biological Weapons Convention” to analyze risks and recommend action.—SASHA PARTAN

Germany Seeks Control for New Weapons

The INF Treaty Crisis: Filling the Void With European Leadership


March 2019
By Nikolai Sokov

The pending demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty indicates the larger deterioration of the U.S.-Russian arms control relationship. The chances that the parties will resolve their disagreements are extremely low or, more realistically, nonexistent.

Russia displays a purported canister and launcher for the disputed 9M729 cruise missile January 23. The gesture of transparency may have been intended to demonstrate Russian willingness to save the INF Treaty, but both the United States and Russia suspended their adherence to the treaty several days later. (Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images)The United States and Russia have each announced they will suspend adherence to the treaty, and Washington has formally announced its plans to withdraw from the pact in early August.

The next likely victim is the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). All signs suggest Washington and Moscow will not be able to engage in constructive dialogue on arms control for a long time, perhaps years. Others must fill that void to prevent an unregulated arms race, and key European nations are best positioned for that role.

There is little doubt that the gap between the U.S. and Russian positions can be bridged as long as the two nations view their differences as technical issues, but the problems are virtually insurmountable at the political level. The United States will continue to insist that Russia admit to violating the INF Treaty by deploying a missile that can fly farther than the treaty allows, but Russia will never concede such a violation, even if it were to agree to remove the offending 9M729 missile. Similarly, Russia could drop its concern that the U.S. MK-41 missile defense launcher could be used to fire treaty-prohibited missiles, but the United States has so far refused to treat that issue as a valid concern or allow Russia to inspect the launcher. In other words, broader foreign policy and domestic political impulses are prevailing over substantive arms control or security considerations.

Some technical discussion was initiated, but too late. At a January 15, 2019, meeting in Geneva, Russia reportedly offered a demonstration of the 9M729 missile while the United States outlined procedures for the verifiable elimination of that missile. Predictably, the United States said the Russian demonstration would not be enough to prove the missile’s range, and Russia rejected both U.S.-proposed procedures for such a demonstration and the procedures for the verified elimination of the missiles as excessively intrusive. Such disagreements are natural at an early stage of negotiations, but the remaining time is short, and political conditions are not conducive for mutual concessions.

Worse still, the situation concerning the extension of New START, which expires in early 2021, is almost identical. Russia has declared it would agree to such an extension only if its concerns about the U.S. implementation of the treaty are addressed. Moscow says it is not able to confirm the irreversibility of the conversion of missile tubes on U.S. strategic submarines. The United States has denied any wrongdoing and rejected any additional verification measures. This conflict has remained overshadowed by the INF Treaty crisis so far, but after that treaty’s demise, New START will move to the forefront.

Given these developments, it will be vital to begin consultations on possible new arms control measures without delay because an unregulated, nontransparent, and unpredictable military balance is simply too dangerous. The collapse of arms control regimes is driven primarily by political factors, so the prospects of new consultations will depend primarily on how the INF Treaty will end, namely, whether relevant actors demonstrate, even if only indirectly, that they are prepared to start looking beyond the INF Treaty. After all, in diplomacy, signals and appearance matter as much as substance, sometimes even more.

The prospects for a renewed arms control effort will be defined by answers to two related questions: Who will agree to talk to Russia, and with whom will Russia agree to talk?

Who Will Negotiate With Russia?

The likelihood of serious U.S.-Russian bilateral engagement seems minimal. Interaction in the remaining months of the INF Treaty’s existence will continue to be rancorous, an atmosphere that will likely persist as the deadline for an extension of New START approaches. The political atmosphere in the United States is not conducive to a serious dialogue with Moscow, and the issue of INF Treaty compliance, which will remain unresolved, is bound to generate strong opposition to a new exercise in arms control because Russia will be seen as untrustworthy by definition. Resumption of a serious bilateral dialogue will likely take years.

One alternative would be for Europe to take a larger role in engaging Russia on arms control issues. Although a more proactive European role is feasible and desirable, certain challenges must be understood and addressed to ensure success.

The first is the potential risk of undermining Atlantic solidarity and having such a new role be seen as a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although the concern is certainly valid, Atlantic solidarity is not synonymous with providing unquestioning support of the United States or of taking the most unyielding position possible on Russia. Solidarity presupposes consensus on policy decisions, but at the stage of policy development, debates are feasible and welcome.

Second, the probability of Europe becoming a single actor appears low (members of both NATO and the European Union differ considerably on handling Russia), so the burden of new arms control initiatives will have to be borne by individual countries. This will become particularly vital if the United States decides to deploy new intermediate-range weapons in Europe under bilateral agreements rather than joint NATO arrangements.

The better option is for Germany or other key European nations to take the leadership reins. Germany has been increasingly active in promoting new approaches to arms control, marked in  2016 by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s initiative to launch a structured dialogue with Russia within the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.1 More recently, Germany has become even more active on these issues under Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose call for a renewed dialogue on arms control, rather surprisingly, has enjoyed the support of the United States and Russia.2

Third, European countries will likely find it difficult to include China in a future dialogue. Engaging Chinese experts is possible, but the prospects are not particularly encouraging. Nonetheless, the value of restarting serious arms control dialogue will overshadow that shortcoming. If that endeavor succeeds, China could be integrated at a later date.

Areas for European Discussion

Given the challenges of Europe-wide representation, Germany and other European nations could play this vital role in several ways in the coming months and years. First, they can provide a platform for a wide-ranging discussion about a new framework for arms control. The German initiatives for renewed dialogue move in the right direction, but conferences cannot provide answers; they are good primarily for formulating questions. Perhaps even more vital is making such a platform sustainable. That will require creating a series of back-channel discussions, often called Track 1.5 and Track 2 meetings, to enable nongovernmental experts as well as national officials in unofficial capacities to begin to formulate solutions to technical, political, and legal issues on a broad variety of outstanding issues.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet the press after discussing INF Treaty issues in Moscow January 18. (Photo: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)Options for regulating weapons with nuclear and conventional capability. NATO in the 1960s and 1970s and Russia from 2000 to 2014 relied on nuclear weapons to balance their adversaries’ conventional advantage. It seems increasingly likely that the United States and NATO could respond in a similar way to the acquisition and deployment of more conventionally armed weapons by Russia. Consequently, arms control no longer can be limited to nuclear weapons.

Tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons. The traditional arms control approach, which has emphasized counting launchers and missiles, not warheads, does not apply well to this category of weapons, so it will be necessary to count warheads for limits on tactical nuclear weapons. Any breakthrough on this issue will help reframe strategic nuclear weapons arms control in the direction proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010 to address strategic and nonstrategic, deployed and nondeployed nuclear weapons.3

Sea- and air-launched intermediate-range weapons in and around Europe. None of these weapons were limited by the INF Treaty, an omission that was a major Soviet concession during the treaty’s negotiation and will not be repeated. Today, Russia has similar weapons of its own, and their number is rapidly growing along with their capabilities, especially with the planned introduction of hypersonic weapons.

The role of missile defense in European security and options for regulating it. Missile defense remains an untouchable topic for the West, but that situation is not sustainable. Russia will refuse to conclude new arms control agreements that exclude missile defense, and its own defense capability is growing. U.S. and NATO concerns about Russian defensive weapons deployments in Kaliningrad is an indicator of a much larger problem that cannot be addressed without putting Western defense assets on the table.

Confidence-building and transparency measures between military forces deployed on land, sea, and air in Europe. Although not directly weapons related, this issue is timely, given the deterioration of the security environment and the growing likelihood of unintended confrontations with escalation potential. The need to address these risks in new regimes is acute. Luckily because they are easier to achieve, they should be made an independent avenue for early action.

Developing Verification Tools

In addition to these discussions, an independent role of European countries could emphasize technical issues, especially accounting and verification. Nongovernmental and international organizations have done much forward-looking work in that area—the UN Institute for Disarmament Research has been particularly productive—but that work needs to be transferred to at least a semiofficial dialogue. Arms control negotiations have shown that these issues are particularly challenging and may take a very long time. It would help if at least some relevant work is done outside formal negotiations. There is even a vehicle that could be used for focused work in that area: the European Nonproliferation and Disarmament Consortium, which consists of a network of European think tanks and research centers.

Nongovernmental work can be complemented by groups of technical experts, which are a time-honored, efficient tool for this kind of work beginning with the development in the 1950s of measures to verify limits or a ban on nuclear testing. Such groups could be initiated and sponsored by European countries, and they could pave the way for diplomats and politicians.

European Treaty Crafters

Another role for European nations could involve developing European positions or drafts of future arms control agreements. Although there was a long-term decline in arms control expertise after the end of the Cold War, interest in these issues has surged in recent years, and there is a new generation of arms control experts. In fact, a close look suggests that the arms control community in Europe is growing as fast or faster than in the United States. European countries might produce a well-developed foundation for future agreements, including possible treaty language, and negotiate them separately with the United States and Russia so that the two Cold War superpowers would come to the negotiating table with ready text proposals.

Such an endeavor would be a long shot—Europe is simply not accustomed to that role—but it is not unthinkable. The young generation of arms controllers in Europe seems to be professionally and psychologically ready to cross the traditional boundaries that Europe has set for itself and take a more proactive and central role in arms control.

Russian Acceptance of Negotiating Partner

The second major question then is with whom Russia may be prepared to seriously engage. It is not enough for Europe to assume a leading role for interacting with Russia; it is also necessary for Russia to agree to talk with Europe in a serious, professional way without trying to utilize them for other purposes. Attempts to split NATO are, in the end, one possible goal for such interaction, and it will be vital to make such interaction focused on arms control rather than on unrelated policies.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces the U.S. suspension of its INF Treaty obligations at a Febuary 1 press briefing in Washington. The following day, the State Department also formally notified Russia that the United States would withdraw from the treaty in six months. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)There is little reason to believe that Russia will want to engage in an arms control dialogue with the United States, although it will declare its readiness to do so. The likelihood of such dialogue was further reduced by Putin’s announcement that Moscow will no longer take a proactive approach, although all its earlier initiatives will remain on the table.4 Effectively, he has said that Russia will sit patiently and wait for others to come to it to ask, even beg, for arms control. The delay in arms control interaction will be driven not just by Washington, but equally by Moscow.

Whether Russia may be interested in a meaningful dialogue with Europe will be largely determined by Europe’s behavior during the remaining months of the INF Treaty and New START. Russia offered a positive response to German initiatives when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met his German counterpart, Maas, on January 18 in Moscow expressing readiness to “jointly consider” development of new norms on nuclear weapons and, more broadly, strategic stability.5 A closer look, however, suggests that Russian post-INF Treaty interaction with Europe is far from assured.

Europe has become a meaningful player in the INF Treaty conflict rather recently, after a briefing conducted last fall by the United States for its NATO allies to explain the U.S. position. Obviously, NATO supported this position and has tried to pressure Moscow to accept everything the United States wants. Germany has been particularly active in this regard; Maas has been making relevant statements on an almost weekly basis.

Russian Outreach

A series of events launched after the failed U.S.-Russian consultations on January 15 in Geneva apparently were intended primarily for European consumption. Russia held two such events: a briefing for diplomats stationed in Moscow on January 18, which was held by the Foreign Ministry, and the display of the controversial 9M729 cruise missile—rather the purported missile in its canister and its associated launcher—by the Defense Ministry on January 22. The former was confidential, the latter was public, and significantly, Moscow disclosed new details about that missile system, which never been seen in the public domain. On January 25, Russia presented its perspective at the NATO-Russia Council, this time again behind closed doors.

This activism can be interpreted in different ways. Some see it as evidence that “pressure is working” and that the INF Treaty could be saved with more pressure by the unified West to eventually force Moscow to accept U.S. demands before the treaty’s six-month withdrawal period. Such a development, which is not impossible but highly unlikely, would require a major Russian retreat and effectively return its policy to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s era, which is perceived today in Russia as bordering on high treason. More likely, Moscow will declare, “Well, we tried,” and happily allow the INF Treaty to end.

Another explanation for Russia’s recent outreach entails a two-fold goal. The first is to demonstrate that Moscow had “gone the extra foot”—it would be too much to say “extra mile”—so that the collapse of an important arms control treaty could be blamed on Washington. This will hardly succeed. Alternatively, Russia’s recent engagements could be an attempt to find a better interlocutor in the West, one capable of listening to Russia. It is difficult to say whether Moscow truly hopes to split the West—such an endeavor is doomed to failure—but an attempt to open a new channel for dialogue on arms control cannot be ruled out. At the very least, Europe could transfer Moscow’s messages to Washington even if it refuses to develop its own, independent approach. In other words, the recent steps might indicate that Russia is already looking beyond the INF Treaty.

Europe’s Next Steps

Moving forward, Europe will need to fashion its statements and actions in such a way that they signal Atlantic solidarity and open-mindedness about future arms control regimes. As long as the latter is present, the former will hardly be seen in Moscow as discouraging.

To achieve a proper balance between the two goals, Europe must demonstrate its ability and willingness to listen. Therefore, the decision by the majority of NATO members, including Germany, to decline the invitation to Russia’s January 22 missile demonstration was a mistake. It would have been better to attend and then criticize the insufficient transparency. After all, diplomacy is not about acceptance but about engagement. Refusal to talk does not improve prospects of an agreement; it makes agreement less likely.

A riskier but still tenable proposition for Europe would be a demonstration of some understanding of Russian concerns about the implementation of the INF Treaty, in particular by hearing Russian complaints about the MK-41 launcher and maybe others. During U.S. President George W. Bush’s first term, Moscow proposed to address armed unmanned aerial vehicles through an amendment to the INF Treaty, which would have excepted them from the definition of cruise missile, but that proposal was rejected. It is not too late to return to
that option.

With today’s U.S.-Russian animosity, illustrated by the almost-dead INF Treaty and the similarly fated New START, the only actor who can successfully talk to Russia and with whom Russia may talk is Europe or, more precisely, certain individual European countries. They have the capacity to play that role.

They can translate capacity into real action on two conditions. First, they need the political will to emerge from their traditional place on the margins to a more proactive role. Second, they need to start sending the correct signals now, without waiting for the end of the INF Treaty. The manner in which the treaty ends will determine how long the world must wait for renewed arms control. The longer the security environment is unregulated, the lower the chances for survival. During the Cold War, arms control efforts resulted from the Cuban missile crisis. Waiting for a similar stimulus is not the wisest course of action, as the world might not survive this time.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “More Security for Everyone in Europe: A Call for a Re-launch of Arms Control,” Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, n.d., https://www.osce.org/cio/261146?download=true (article originally published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on August 26, 2016).

2. “National Statement by Heiko Maas, Member of the German Bundestag, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the OSCE Ministerial Council,” MC.DEL/25/18, December 7, 2018, https://www.osce.org/chairmanship/405665?download=true.

3. U.S. Department of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review Report,” April 2010, p. 47, https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/defenseReviews/NPR/2010_Nuclear_Posture_Review_Report.pdf.

4. “Meeting With Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoigu,” February 2, 2019, http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59763 (in Russian).

5. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Statement and Answers to Media Questions During a Joint News Conference Following Talks With Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas,” January 18, 2019, http://www.mid.ru/ru/vizity-ministra/-/asset_publisher/ICoYBGcCUgTR/content/id/3478159?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_ICoYBGcCUgTR&_101_INSTANCE_ICoYBGcCUgTR_languageId=en_GB.

 


Nikolai Sokov is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a program of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. A former official in the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he participated in negotiations for the first and second strategic arms reduction treaties.

 

In the absence of active U.S.-Russian efforts to resolve disagreements over the INF Treaty, other nations may be
able to lead the way toward preventing a new arms race.

As INF Treaty Falls, New START Teeters


March 2019
By Kingston Reif

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement last October that he planned to “terminate” the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the chances were remote that the United States and Russia could achieve an 11th-hour diplomatic miracle to save the treaty and reduce the growing risk of a renewed missile race in Europe.

Russia displays a purported canister for the 9M729 cruise missile near Moscow on January 23. The United States has charged that the missile can fly farther than allowed by the INF Treaty. (Photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)German Chancellor Angela Merkel persuaded Trump to hold off on withdrawal for 60 days to give diplomacy one last chance, but Washington and Moscow spent more time assigning blame for the crisis than discussing ways to resolve their concerns. Those issues revolve around the years-old U.S. charges that Russia developed and deployed a treaty-prohibited, ground-launched, nuclear-capable cruise missile, known as the 9M729, and Russian countercharges that the United States is violating the treaty. (See ACT, January/February 2019.)

It came as no surprise, therefore, that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally declared on Feb. 2 that the United States would withdraw from the treaty effective in August. Pompeo also stated that Washington would immediately suspend its obligations under the pact. The announcement reflected National Security Advisor John Bolton’s long-held opposition to the INF Treaty and other negotiated arms limitation agreements.

Russia immediately reciprocated by announcing that it too would suspend its treaty obligations.

To make matters worse, as the INF Treaty draws its final breaths, the future of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is increasingly uncertain. If New START is allowed to expire without a replacement in 2021, there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972.

The INF Treaty required Russia and the United States to eliminate permanently their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

Pompeo left open the possibility that the United States would return to the treaty if Russia verifiably eliminates “all 9M729 missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment in this six-month period.”

Russia, however, has given no indication that it would meet U.S. demands for an inspection of the missiles; and the United States is similarly unwilling to address Russia’s concerns about U.S. treaty compliance, notably the fielding of U.S. missile defense interceptor launchers in Europe that Moscow says could be used to launch offensive missiles in violation of the agreement.

New Missile Deployments in Europe?

Although apparently eager to end the treaty, the White House has yet to articulate a strategy to prevent Russia from building more and new types of land-based, intermediate-range missiles.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a Feb. 2 meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russia would retaliate to the U.S. abrogation of the agreement by beginning research and development on “land-based modifications of the sea-based Kalibr launching systems” and “land-based launchers for hypersonic intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.”

Putin added that Russia would “not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons, if we develop weapons of this kind, neither in Europe nor anywhere else, until U.S. weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.” If there were such U.S. deployments, however, Putin vowed Feb. 20 that Russia would “be forced to respond with mirror or asymmetric actions” such as Russian “weapons that can be used not only in the areas we are directly threatened from [Europe], but also in areas that contain [U.S.] decision-making centers for the missile systems threatening us.”

In his Feb. 6 State of the Union address, Trump alluded to negotiating a new intermediate-range missile agreement that would also include China, but the administration has not yet raised the issue with China, which possesses hundreds of land-based, intermediate-range missiles. Joining the INF Treaty would mean that China would have to eliminate 95 percent of its missile arsenal.

Some European leaders have suggested diplomatic options that could avert a new missile race that would undermine European security.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto proposed on Feb. 16 at the Munich Security Conference that the United States and Russia could agree to keep Europe “free” of INF Treaty-prohibited missiles.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before Feb. 12 meetings with NATO defense ministers that the alliance is “planning for a world without the INF Treaty.”

“Any steps we take will be coordinated, measured, and defensive,” he added. “We do not intend to deploy new ground-based nuclear missiles in Europe.” Stoltenberg did not say whether the alliance, which has expressed support for the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, would also forgo the deployment of conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles.

Congress approved $48 million in fiscal year 2019 to research and develop concepts and options for such conventional missile systems. (See ACT, November 2018.) The status of the development work is unclear.

Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told PBS NewsHour on Feb. 7 that the United States is not currently planning to deploy banned missiles in Europe, but noted that “when we develop next steps, it will be in consultation with partners and allies.”

The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2020 budget request, due for release in mid-March, is likely to include additional funding for developing new ground-launched missile systems.

Even if the United States were to develop such weapons, they would need to be deployed on the territory of allies neighboring Russia. So far, no country has said that it would be willing to host such missiles. If one did, a bilateral arrangement that circumvents NATO decision-making would likely be controversial.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said at the Munich conference on Feb. 15 that Poland is “against” hosting U.S. ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles. If a decision is made to deploy such missiles, he added, “it will be a decision of all the [NATO] alliance.”

Consequences for Strategic Arms Control

In the likely event that the INF Treaty collapses, the only remaining U.S.-Russian arms control agreement would be New START, which expires in 2021 but can be extended by up to five years by mutual agreement.

The Trump administration has yet to formulate the U.S. position on New START’s future. (See ACT, September 2018.) Thompson said on Feb. 7 that the administration “has an interagency process addressing that.… We will see what 2021 holds.”

Before joining the Trump administration, Bolton was a frequent and vocal critic of New START, castigating the agreement as unilateral disarmament.

Russia has repeatedly expressed interest in extending the treaty, but it has raised concerns about U.S. procedures to remove submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and some B-52 bombers from treaty accountability.

Thompson last year described the Russian concerns about U.S. implementation of New START as manufactured and raised concerns about Russia’s development of new strategic-range nuclear weapons systems, such as globe-circling, nuclear-powered cruise missiles, and very long-range nuclear torpedoes. Russia claims that these systems would not be limited by New START because they do not use ballistic flight trajectories.

In an 11-page paper sent to members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December, Russia described the U.S. conversion procedures as “unlawful” and warned that “these problems might potentially disrupt prospects” for New START’s extension after 2021.

New START gives each party the right to formulate its own conversion procedures. The treaty does not require conversions to be irreversible or that the other side agree with the conversion procedure.

According to the Russian paper, the Trump administration in December 2017 proposed two steps to address Russia’s concerns, including “a cabinet-level written political commitment that the United States does not intend to reverse the conversion of any of the converted Trident II SLBM launchers or B-52H heavy bombers for the duration” of New START. Russia characterized these proposals as “a step in the right direction,” but ultimately deemed them insufficient. It is not clear if the U.S. proposals remain on the table.

Pranay Vaddi, a former State Department official and now a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a Feb. 19 email that this Russian concern “is a silly issue to stand in the way of a potential extension of the treaty, but can be resolved with minimum effort if the sides have the will to do it.”

“The United States and Russia should focus discussions on increased transparency using existing treaty mechanisms as a model, rather than attempting major changes to the [conversion] procedures, or to the regular operations of U.S. submarines and bombers,” he added.

The White House appears to believe that there is plenty of time left for the two sides to make a decision on an extension, but Russia is warning that time is short.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on Feb. 7 “that there is almost no time left” to discuss Russia’s continuing concerns about U.S. implementation of the treaty and other issues necessary to pave the way for an extension.

“It gives reason to suspect our American counterparts of setting ground to…just let the treaty quietly expire,” Ryabkov said.

 

How Did We Get Here? Documenting the Demise of the INF Treaty

On Feb. 2, the United States formally issued its notification of withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, to take effect in six months, and it also announced the immediate suspension of its treaty obligations, raising concerns about a renewed missile race in Europe and beyond.

Russia immediately followed the U.S. announcement by declaring that it would also suspend its treaty obligations.

The treaty’s withdrawal clause sets a six-month waiting period before a party’s withdrawal takes effect, and the Trump administration stated that it would reverse its decisions if Russia returns to “full and verifiable” compliance with the pact during that time.

After a Dec. 4, 2018 announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States had found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and that the United States would suspend its treaty obligations unless Russia returned to compliance within 60 days, U.S. and Russian officials held several discussions. Most notable were a two-hour Jan. 15 meeting in Geneva between Andrea Thompson, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, which came to no conclusion, and a Jan. 31 meeting at the same level on the sidelines of a major powers meeting in Beijing, again to no resolution.

Although the United States rejected Russian offers to demonstrate and exhibit the contentious 9M729 cruise missile in exchange for U.S. demonstrations of its MK-41 missile launchers in Europe, Russia went ahead and held a Jan. 23 event to display equipment purportedly related to the 9M729 for an audience of foreign military attachés. No U.S. or NATO officials attended, and Thompson argued later that a static display would not address questions of the missile’s flight range.

For some time, the U.S. intelligence community, reinforced by NATO findings, has charged that the Russian missile exceeds the INF Treaty’s range limits and Russia has violated the treaty by testing and deploying the missile.

Russia has refused to acknowledge any noncompliance and has countered with questions about U.S. treaty compliance. Chief among those concerns is Russia’s assertion that the MK-41 missile launchers of the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense systems, currently deployed in Romania and under construction in Poland, can be easily converted to launch treaty-prohibited ground-launched missiles. The United States has refused to address the Russian concerns and has not appeared interested in reciprocal transparency site inspections, as several U.S. allies have proposed.

Following the Feb. 1 U.S. public announcements that official notice of suspension and withdrawal would occur the next day, NATO’s North Atlantic Council, quickly said that “allies fully support” the U.S. withdrawal. Some key NATO partners, however, showed less enthusiasm for the official statement. The French Foreign Ministry said Feb. 1 that France “regrets reaching a situation” that resulted in the withdrawal, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted Feb. 16 that the treaty’s termination was the “really bad news this year” for Europeans. Non-NATO allies shared similar sentiments, with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stating that due to the historic role the treaty played in arms control, it was “undesirable” for the agreement to end.

Responding to the U.S. decisions, Russian President Vladimir Putin directed his foreign and defense ministries “not to initiate talks” on disarmament matters “until our partners are ready to engage in equal and meaningful dialogue.” He further directed that Russia “will not deploy intermediate-range or shorter-range weapons…neither in Europe nor anywhere else until U.S. weapons of this kind are deployed to the corresponding regions of the world.” This promise may have been undermined by The Wall Street Journal reporting on Jan. 31 that Russia currently has four deployed battalions of the 9M729 system, estimated to be nearly 100 missiles, including some within range to strike NATO countries.

In his Feb. 6 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump reaffirmed his decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty and raised questions of U.S. post-treaty military and diplomatic plans. “Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others, or perhaps we can’t, in which case we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far,” Trump said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said several times, including after a NATO defense ministerial meeting on Feb. 13, that NATO has no plans to deploy ground-based “nuclear missiles,” leaving open the possibility of deployments of conventionally armed INF Treaty-range missiles in NATO countries.

Meanwhile in Congress, public reactions to the Trump administration’s treaty withdrawal announcement have fallen along partisan lines, with Republicans supporting the withdrawal and Democrats opposing the action. Democrats have also rallied behind several pieces of legislation to restrict funding for ground-launched, INF Treaty-range missiles unless several specific conditions have been met, the key one being a requirement that any deployment of such a missile in Europe come from a NATO-wide decision, not a bilateral agreement.

The “Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019” was first introduced in the Senate on Jan. 31 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 11 Democratic co-sponsors, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), plus Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). A companion version was introduced on the House side Feb. 14 by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and co-sponsored by fellow Democrats Ted Lieu (Calif.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.). Separately, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation Feb. 14 limiting funding for INF Treaty-range missiles with Democratic colleagues Ilhan Omar (Minn.), James McGovern (Mass.), and Mark Pocan (Wis.).—SHERVIN TAHERAN

The INF Treaty crisis threatens far more than the INF Treaty.

CBO Predicts Increased Nuclear Arsenal Costs


March 2019
By Shervin Taheran

The United States will spend nearly half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years to sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, according to a January report from congressional auditors. The estimate is 23 percent higher than a previous 10-year forecast conducted two years ago.

Projected costs for the still-under-development B-21 strategic bomber will contribute to a significant increase in U.S. nuclear weapons spending over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report includes the projected costs to sustain and modernize U.S. delivery vehicles, warheads, and their associated infrastructure. The $494 billion estimate includes spending by the Defense Department and the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration from this year through 2028. The CBO estimates that nuclear forces account for roughly 6 percent of the total 10-year cost of all national defense programs.

A 2017 CBO report estimated 10-year spending at $400 billion. (See ACT, March 2017.) The new estimate’s $94 billion increase reflects some spending that was not included in the date range of the previous report and inflationary adjustments, but about 40 percent of the boost reflects plans to increase spending on new weapons, cost growth in some existing modernization programs, and “more concrete” modernization plans for nuclear command-and-control systems.

The CBO report notes that the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review factored into the increased costs, and the report points to three particular new efforts that are projected to increase the total estimated costs by $17 billion over the next 10 years: a new sea-launched cruise missile; a nuclear warhead with a relatively low yield for submarine-launched ballistic missiles; and a plutonium pit production boost to at least 80 pits per year by 2030.

Notable Increases

Estimated costs of U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and supporting activities came to $106 billion over the next 10 years, an increase of $19 billion over the 2017 estimate. Modernization costs for nuclear command, control, communications, and early-warning systems were estimated to grow by $19 billion, to $77 billion, over 10 years, although the CBO report indicates there is substantial uncertainty due to plans still being formulated.

The cost of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) jumped to $61 billion over 10 years, $18 billion more than the 2017 estimate, largely attributed to the ramp-up in development of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program and the inclusion of advancing development costs for a new re-entry vehicle and interoperable warheads for the new ICBMs.

Forecasted spending on U.S. ballistic missile submarines also increased significantly, with the report estimating
a total of $107 billion over 10 years, an increase of $17 billion from the previous estimate.

The CBO report estimates that the United States will spend $49 billion over 10 years on strategic bombers, but a footnote explains that this projection covers only partial costs of the B-52 bomber and the new B-21 bomber. If the full cost of B-52 and B-21 bombers were included, the footnote states, bomber costs would total $104 billion over 10 years, and the total cost of nuclear forces would be $559 billion.

Cost-Saving Alternatives

Many nuclear experts and policymakers have expressed concern about the rising costs, their impact on other national security priorities, and whether the spending plans are sustainable. To address some of these issues, the CBO released a Dec. 2018 update to a biennial report, “Options for Reducing the Deficit,” which identified savings of approximately $100 billion over 10 years by modifying the number of warheads and delivery systems, deferring modernization programs, and canceling some programs. This estimate is over 40 percent larger than the savings the CBO projected in its previous deficit-reduction report in 2016. (See ACT, January/February 2017.) The difference reflects the CBO’s inclusion in the newer report of additional cost-saving options, such as cancelling the new ICBM in the GBSD program and replacing the interoperable nuclear warhead program with less expensive life extension programs, for savings of $30.4 billion.

 

The estimated cost of sustaining and modernizing U.S. nuclear weapons over the next 10 years has
increased 23 percent.

How Congress Can Leverage Action on New START


March 2019
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Every U.S. president since John Kennedy has successfully concluded at least one agreement with Russia or the Soviet Union to reduce nuclear dangers. These agreements have helped to slash nuclear stockpiles, manage nuclear competition, and provide greater stability, thereby reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe between the world’s two largest nuclear actors.

The sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol on December 17, 2010, when the full U.S. Senate debated its Resolution of Ratification for New START. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)In March 2018, President Donald Trump said he wanted to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”

Since then, however, Trump and Putin have barged ahead with costly plans to replace and upgrade their massive nuclear arsenals. The bilateral nuclear relationship has gone from bad to worse.

The July 2018 Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki yielded nothing, not even an agreement to resume “strategic stability” talks. The simmering dispute over Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty reached the boiling point in October 2018 when Trump said he would terminate the pact, which had eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.

Worse still, the United States and Russia have not begun talks to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which caps each side’s deployed strategic warheads to no more than 1,550 and delivery vehicles to no more than 700.

Without the INF Treaty or New START, there would be no legally binding, verifiable limits on U.S. or Russian nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

Because there is no realistic chance to negotiate a New START replacement by 2021, the logical step for both sides is simply to extend the treaty by five years to 2026, as allowed in Article XIV of the agreement. Putin has indicated he would like to begin talks to extend the treaty, but Trump remains undecided.

The U.S. military continues to see great value in New START. In a December 2018 report to Congress, the Defense Department said that, without the treaty “the United States would lose access to valuable information on Russian strategic forces, as well as access to Russian strategic facilities.”

Unfortunately, National Security Advisor John Bolton, who called for abandoning New START before he joined the Trump administration, is leading the ongoing interagency review on the treaty’s extension. Sources indicate Bolton, true to form, is pushing to nix New START.

With the future of New START in jeopardy, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle need to step in and use the power of the purse to attempt to prevent Trump and Bolton from blowing up the last remaining U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control agreement and to bring nuclear weapons costs under control.

As Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, noted last September, “[B]ipartisan support for nuclear modernization is tied to maintaining an arms control process that controls and seeks to reduce Russian nuclear forces.… We’re not interested in writing blank checks for a nuclear arms race with Russia.”

To send a message to the administration, Congress this year should prohibit funding to increase the number of nuclear weapons above the limits set by New START, so long as Russia continues to stay below treaty ceilings. Such an approach would guard against a breakout by either side and help to maintain strategic stability.

As the Defense Department reported to Congress in 2012, Russia “would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario under the New START Treaty, primarily because of the inherent survivability of the planned U.S. strategic force structure.”

Congress should also take steps to challenge the Trump administration’s excessive nuclear force plans, especially if the administration is going to default on its obligation to limit and reduce excess Russian and U.S. nuclear forces.

The Trump plans call for spending roughly $500 billion over the next 10 years to maintain and replace U.S. nuclear delivery systems and their associated warheads and supporting infrastructure, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This enormous and growing bill is unsustainable and unnecessary. According to a 2013 Pentagon assessment, U.S. strategic nuclear force levels are at least one-third larger than necessary to deter nuclear attack.

More realistic and affordable options to maintain a credible nuclear arsenal can and should be pursued regardless of whether New START is extended. But Congress must also make clear to the administration that the evisceration of arms control is unacceptable.

One option Congress could pursue is to freeze funding for the major nuclear delivery system and warhead modernization programs at today’s levels, which would force delays in the schedules for these programs. This would get the attention of the White House and Pentagon and put pressure on the administration to make the right decision on New START.

If Trump is not ready or able to take the steps necessary to prevent a dangerous new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms race, Congress should be ready to do so.

Every U.S. president since John Kennedy has successfully concluded at least one agreement with Russia or the Soviet Union to reduce nuclear dangers. These agreements have helped to slash nuclear stockpiles, manage nuclear competition, and provide greater stability, thereby reducing the risk of nuclear catastrophe between the world’s two largest nuclear actors.

Controversy Over Nuclear Safety Board Scope and Size

Overlooked but significant controversies have been simmering about an independent government board in charge of overseeing safety standards and practices at the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex, and the battle for independent oversight between the board and the agency. These issues are made all the more concerning against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s costly and expanding plans to recapitalize the U.S. nuclear weapons complex and increase the production of plutonium cores for nuclear weapons. In May 2018, the Energy Department issued Order 140.1 , which would change...

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress No Funding for U.S. INF Missiles in Europe

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The INF Treaty prohibited all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The official figures above show missiles deployed November 1, 1987, shortly before the INF Treaty was signed. The treaty also required destruction of 430 U.S. missiles and 979 Soviet missiles which were in storage or otherwise not deployed. The treaty prevented the planned deployment of an additional 208 GLCMs in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IAs, under joint U.S.-German control, were not formally covered by the INF Treaty but were also to be eliminated by U.S. and West German agreement. The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty led to the verifiable elimination of over 2,500 Soviet and U.S. missiles based in Europe and helped bring an end to the Cold War.

But now, the United States and Russia are on course to withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months over a long-running dispute over Russian compliance with the treaty.

Termination of the INF Treaty opens the door for Russia and the United States to develop and deploy more and new types of ground-launched intermediate-range missiles–a move that would increase the risks of a destabilizing new missile race.

You can help stop this!

A group of leading U.S. Senators has re-introduced the "Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019," which would prohibit funding for the procurement, flight-testing, or deployment of a U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile until the Trump Administration meets seven specific conditions, including identifying a U.S. ally formally willing to host such a system, and in the case of a European country, have it be the outcome of a NATO-wide decision.

This bill is a step in the right direction. New U.S. ground-launched cruise deployments in Europe or elsewhere would cost billions of dollars, take years to complete, and are militarily unnecessary to defend NATO allies because existing weapons systems can already hold key Russian targets at risk.

Your Senators need to hear from you.

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