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"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018
Nuclear Nonproliferation

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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U.S. Global Summit on Iran Faces Pushback | The P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, January 24, 2019

U.S. Global Summit on Iran Faces Pushback The United States and Poland are co-hosting a summit on Middle East stability with a particular focus on countering Iran, although several European foreign ministers are planning to skip the event. The ministerial-level meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13-14 in Warsaw. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Jan. 11 that the summit will “focus on Middle East stability and peace, freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence." The Polish Ministry of...

WMD-Free Middle East Proposal at a Glance

December 2018

Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: December 2018

As part of a package of decisions that resulted in the indefinite extension of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the 1995 NPT Review Conference called for “the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical and biological, and their delivery systems.” First put forth by Egypt in 1990, the Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Zone (WMDFZ) proposal expanded on longstanding calls to establish a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East. Both measures, intended to be pursued in parallel, have garnered broad international support but practical progress has since been elusive.

Background

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) first endorsed calls for the establishment of a NWFZ in a resolution approved in December of 1974 following a proposal by Iran and Egypt. From 1980 to 2018, that resolution had been passed annually without a vote by UNGA and endorsement for the proposal has been incorporated in a number of UN Security Council Resolutions. In 2018, the resolution was brought to a vote with the United States and Israel voting against. From 1991 onwards the IAEA General Conference has also adopted annually without objections a resolution calling for the application of full scope safeguards on all nuclear facilities in the region “as a necessary step for the establishment of the NWFZ.”

Prompted by Egypt in 1988, the UN Secretary General undertook a “Study on Effective and Verifiable Measures which Would Facilitate the Establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East” that looked at conditions surrounding the creation of NWFZ and made a number recommendations including a list confidence building measures. A 1989 IAEA Technical Study also looked at various modalities for the application of safeguards on nuclear facilities in the Middle East as a necessary step to establishing a NWFZ.

Despite extensive international support and the catalogue of resolutions endorsed including by all regional states, practical progress has been stymied by sharp disagreements between countries in the region over the terms and the sequence of steps leading to the establishment of the zone. Reflecting differing perceptions of threat and security concerns existing in the region, Israel has closely linked discussions on the establishment of the WMDFZ with the existence of durable peace and compliance with international obligations by states in the region. Arab states have said that no such linkage should exist and that the establishment of WMDFZ would contribute to peaceful relations.

Basic Elements of the Middle East WMDFZ

A future WMDFZ would commit parties not to possess, acquire, test, manufacture or use any nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as their delivery systems as provided for in the 1995 NPT Review Conference Middle East resolution. Definitions for what constitutes these types of non-conventional weapons are contained in international treaties on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as the 1948 United Nations Commission for Conventional Armaments. A shared understanding would also be required to regulate the types of delivery systems that would become subject to the prohibitions under the zone. Discussions have included proposals for banning all ballistic missiles with ranges in excess of 150 km.

Territory: The 1989 IAEA Technical Study, which first took up the geographic delimitation of a future Middle East NWFZ, applied the concept to a region extending from Libya in the west, to Iran in the east, and from Syria in the north to Yemen in the south. A subsequent UN Study expanded the concept further by including all League of Arab states, plus Iran and Israel in the zone. The Arab League has officially endorsed the UN Study delimitation and Israel has raised no objection other than note that any country in the region should be publicly recognized and accepted as an integral part thereof. Suggestions of including Afghanistan, Pakistan as well as Turkey in the eventual zone have not gained any significant traction.

Verification: One of the principles recognized by UNGA Resolution 3472B on NWFZs in 1975 was that such a zone “should provide for effective verification of compliance with the commitments made by the parties to the Treaty.” Israel has long insisted that any future WMDFZ must also provide “for mutual verification measures” while other proposals have included calls for setting up a regional organization to ensure compliance.

The WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East: 2010 - present

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, state parties were able to agree for the first time to five practical steps to make progress towards implementing the 1995 NPT Review Conference Middle East resolution. The United States, Russia and the United Kingdom, the treaty depository powers and sponsors of that Resolution, committed to work together with the UN Secretary General to convene a regional conference to discuss the issue in 2012. Other measures agreed included the appointment of a WMDFZ facilitator as well as designation of a government that will host the conference. 

The European Union has also offered to host a seminar, a follow-up on the one organized in Paris in 2008, to discuss steps that would facilitate work on establishing the Free Zone ahead of 2012 Conference.

In November 2011, a two-day meeting was held at the IAEA headquarters. Proposals by 97 participating nations included:

  • to continue working towards the establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East;
  • to consider declarations of good intentions as a first step to break the current stalemate;
  • to make the best and most constructive use of every opportunity on the international agenda; and
  • to identify specific and practical confidence-building measures.

The regional conference on the establishment of a WMD free zone in the Middle East proposed by the NPT was set to be held in Finland in December 2012, and Finnish Undersecretary of State Jaakko Laajava was name as the facilitator.

On November 23, the United States issued a statement postponing the December 2012 conference. The conference has not yet been rescheduled, and the co-conveners are offering different opinions as to when it should be held, and the reasons for the delay. The U.S. statement cited "present conditions in the Middle East" and the lack of agreement by participating states on "acceptable conditions" for the December conference. No timeline for rescheduling was included. In a November 24 statement, Russia called for the conference to be held before April 2013, citing that the preparations had already reached an "advanced stage" and that the reason for postponement was that not all states in the region agreed to participate in the conference. At the time of the announcement, conference facilitator Jaakko Laajava, had not yet secured Israel's attendance. While Iran announced that it would attend on November 7, it also said it would not engage with the Israelis at the conference, and some experts believe Iran only announced it would attend because Tehran knew that the December 2012 meeting would not take place.

On April 29, 2013, Egypt walked out of the NPT Preparatory Committee Meeting in Geneva in protest of the conference's postponement and called for it to be rescheduled as soon as possible.

Between October 2013 and June 2014, Laajava, with the support of the conveners, has held five consultations with the countries in the region aimed at reaching consensus on an agenda for the conference. The last consultation was held in June 2014. The Arab League member states and Israel have attended every meeting. Iran was present only at the first consultation in October 2013, but is regularly briefed on the outcomes of the consultations.

During the 2015 NPT Review Conference, Egypt led the Arab League in pushing a new proposal to dispense with the facilitator and three of the conveners (Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), leaving the UN Secretary General as the sole authority for holding the conference within 180 days of the Review Conference ending. The Egyptian proposal also called for the creation of two working groups. Working Group I would deal with the scope, geographic demarcation, prohibitions and interim measures. Working Group II would deal with verification measures and implementation mechanisms.

A modified version of the Egyptian proposal appeared in the draft final document of the 2015 NPT Review Conference. The draft final document called for the UN secretary-general to convene a conference by March 1, 2016, aimed at “launching a continuous process of negotiating and concluding a legally binding treaty” that establishes a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

The document called for the secretary-general to appoint by July 1 a special representative to facilitate the process. The facilitator would work with the secretary-general, as well as Russia, the UK, and the United States, to consult with the states in the region on the agenda for the conference.

Under the language in the draft document, if an agenda for the conference were agreed before the March deadline, the secretary-general would have to convene the conference within 45 days of agreement on the agenda.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada decided not to support the draft final document from the NPT review conference based on the language concerning the Middle East WMD-free zone. The United States, speaking at the conference, said it objected because the plan to set an agenda and hold a conference was not based on "consensus and equality," and that the document proposed "unworkable conditions" and "arbitrary deadlines."

The WMD-free zone in the Middle East initiative continued to be a key discussion topic at the first NPT preparatory committee meeting in 2017 leading up to the 2020 Review Conference. The Arab League did not present a unified statement on the issue, marking a growing divide among members on the subject. Instead, Egypt, Iran, and a group of 12 Arab League members, including Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, each offered separate working papers on advancing the WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

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

 


Chronology of Important Dates

1974 – The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approves resolution endorsing the goal of establishing a NWFZ in the Middle East following a proposal by Iran.

1980 - Israel joins international consensus allowing the General Assembly to pass a resolution supporting the goal of NWFZ without a vote.

1989 - The IAEA Secretariat issues report titled “A Technical Study on Different Modalities of Application of Safeguards in the Middle East."

1990 - The Egyptian proposal to establish an expanded WMDFZ in the Middle East is first submitted before the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

1991 – The UN Secretary General releases a “Study on Effective and Verifiable Measures which Would Facilitate the Establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East” outlining, amongst other things, a number of confidence building steps that could contribute to the establishment of the zone.

1991 – The IAEA General Conference passes resolution on “the Application of IAEA safeguards in the Middle” as a necessary step towards the establishment of a NWFZ in the region. The resolution has since been passed annually without objections.

1991 – The UN Security Council Resolution 687 endorses goal of establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

1992 – Discussions on regional arms control begin under the aegis of the Arms Control and Regional Security Group (ACRS), a multilateral regional body born out of the Madrid Middle East peace talks. Envisaged to include discussions on a future WMDFZ, talks were placed indefinitely on hold following disagreement between Israel and Egypt over the agenda for discussing WMDFZ related issues.  Iran and Iraq were not party to these talks.

1995 - The NPT Review Conference adopts a Resolution on the Middle East calling on states to take practical steps to make progress in the establishment of WMDFZ in the region. Member agreement on resolution was seen as key to securing the indefinite extension of the NPT.

2000 - The NPT Review conference reaffirms the goal of 1995 Middle East Resolution and says that the resolution remains “valid until its goals and objectives are achieved.”

2006 – The WMD Commission Final Report calls for an intensification of international efforts to establish a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

2010 - The NPT Review Conference endorses five practical steps to make progress towards the goal of establishing a WMDFZ in the Middle East. Action steps adopted include convening a regional conference to discuss the issue in 2012 and appointing a WMDFZ Facilitator.

2011 - Two-day meeting held at IAEA headquarters on a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

2012 - The conference on the establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East is postponed due to a lack of consensus on the agenda.

October 2013-June 2014 - Five consultations are held for the states in the region to discuss moving forward on establishing an agenda for the conference.

May 2015 - The draft final document of the 2015 NPT Review Conference presented a new plan for moving forward on a conference to establish the zone. The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada objected to the document based on these provisions, thus preventing consensus and the adoption of the final document.

 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, December 5, 2018

Europeans Advance Alternative Payment System for Iran Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that Iran will give the European Union more time to work out the details of its Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), destined to facilitate trade with Iran, but said that Tehran will not “wait forever.” While Iran remains in compliance with the multilateral nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian officials have repeatedly stated that Tehran will abandon the agreement if it is no longer in the country’s best interest. The SPV, announced by EU foreign policy...

Human Rights Body Condemns WMD


The interpretative body of a major human rights treaty called the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including nuclear weapons, “incompatible with the respect for the right to life,” adding that it may be a “crime under international law,” in new commentary adopted Oct. 30 on the treaty’s implementation. The Human Rights Committee is composed of international experts who monitor implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has 172 states-parties, including all nuclear-armed countries except China, which is a signatory.

The commentary, coupled with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, reflects a “new, more human-centered trend towards nuclear disarmament,” Daniel Rietiker, an adjunct professor of international law and human rights at the University of Lausanne, wrote in a blog post Nov. 7. But several nuclear-armed states argued when the commentary was being considered that weapons of mass destruction were beyond the scope of the ICCPR. The new commentary also asserts that states-parties must stop WMD proliferation, destroy existing stockpiles, respect obligations to pursue good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and provide “reparations” to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing.

The last comment from the Human Rights Committee on nuclear weapons was in 1984, which stated that nuclear weapons “are among the greatest threats to the right of life which confront mankind today” and that their use “should be considered” a crime against humanity.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Human Rights Body Condemns WMD

What Can the EU Do to Reduce the Nuclear Threat?

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann
Polis 180 Fireside Chat
Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe
Berlin, Germany
November 28, 2018

Toward the end of October, President Donald Trump announced at a political rally that the United States would be withdrawing from the 31-year old Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (“INF”) Treaty, which had banned an entire category of ground-based missiles from the U.S. and Russian arsenals. There has since been considerable discussion about what this decision portends for the entire nuclear arms control enterprise. I cannot presume to know how Germany and other European states can best protect their national security interests. But I can offer some thoughts on how Europe can help America cope with the Trump phenomenon, which I see as America’s greatest leadership crisis in my lifetime.

My first job as a diplomat in the Department of State was to help implement the 1979 “Dual-Track” decision of NATO (der Doppelbeschluss)–according to which NATO planned to deploy 572 nuclear-tipped missiles in Europe while seeking to negotiate equal but lower limits on the 600 Soviet theater missiles already deployed against NATO. The government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt played a critical role in pushing for such action. He worried that the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks process had left Europe vulnerable to a growing force of Mittelstrecken Raketen for which it had no comparable counter. Indeed, the SS-20s being deployed were more mobile, longer-range, less vulnerable, and more accurate than the SS-4 and SS-5 missiles they were replacing. Moreover, they would carry three times as many warheads.

The only U.S. nuclear weapons based in Europe which could reach Soviet territory then were carried by medium-range bombers, themselves increasingly vulnerable to Soviet anti-aircraft weapons. And thus, the scene was set for a highly-charged contest of wills between the Soviet Union, the United States, and the five NATO countries that had agreed to station new INF missiles on their territories. Germany would have the largest and most critical contingent, including 108 very accurate and fast Pershing II ballistic missiles.

I was present in Geneva at the opening of the negotiations 37 years ago this Friday. I was also present for three years in Embassy Bonn’s Political Section, when the first U.S. deployments arrived in 1983–the “Year of the missile”–and when the Soviet negotiators walked out of the Geneva negotiations.

But with the coming to power of Mikhael Gorbachev in 1985, the mood changed and negotiations resumed the next year. By the end of 1987, the Soviet leader and Ronald Reagan had signed a “zero-zero” treaty with an even lower range floor on banned missiles than the parties had first discussed. Within three years of the treaty entering into force, nearly 2,700 missiles had been eliminated.

This saga is worth recalling–partly to appreciate how unlikely such an outcome seemed in 1979 and how much the treaty ultimately contributed to the reductions of Cold War tensions. It is also important to realize how important the treaty’s verification provisions were for establishing precedents applied to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which followed in 1991. And to remember the creative and hard-working personnel on both sides, who conscientiously fulfilled the treaty obligations.

During the last decade, there have been voices raised in both Moscow and Washington, arguing that the treaty had outlived its usefulness in a post-Cold War world where the European situation was fundamentally different and a world where third countries were increasing their arsenals of intermediate-range missiles.

In 2014, the United States officially accused Russia of testing a cruise missile with a range in excess of that allowed by the treaty. Russia, in turn, levied three charges against the United States, the most serious being that the U.S. missile defense launchers being deployed in Romania were prohibited because they were capable of launching cruise missiles banned under the treaty.

These compliance concerns have now been subject to confidential discussions between the United States and Russia for five years without resolution. Although Trump’s announcement that the United States intended to withdraw from the INF Treaty appeared to be the beginning of the end, it was not the first step taken in that direction. Moscow appears to have decided a decade ago to ignore the treaty’s range limits on cruise missiles. Last year’s U.S. defense budget included research and development funding for new ground-based missiles, which would eventually violate the treaty when they are first flight-tested.

It is my contention, and the view of the U.S.-Russian-German “Deep Cuts Commission” (of which I’m a member) that neither side has made sufficient efforts to use the treaty’s verification mechanism to address this problem.

There is still time. The treaty requires six months notice before withdrawal can occur, and that notice has still not been officially provided.

Ironically, the U.S. revelation in public last year of the Russian manufacturer and designator of the offending missile has opened up a path to resolution, which has not yet been explored. After years of Moscow saying it did not know what the United States was talking about, it now acknowledges having developed and deployed the missile in question–the Novator 9M729—but says the United States is wrong about its capabilities. There is now a curious parallelism in the U.S. response to Russia’s complaints about the missile defense launchers in Romania and Poland. Washington contends that the Aegis Ashore Mk 41 launchers are not capable of doing what the Mk 41 launchers at sea can do.

The argument is now ripe for an invitation to experts for mutual on-site inspection and technical discussions to examine the capabilities of the systems in dispute. Yet neither side has made such a proposal! Here is where Germany and its fellow NATO members can play a constructive role. Russia’s 9M729 cruise missiles threaten the territory of NATO’s European members. The U.S. missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe have been endorsed by NATO. The alliance should press hard for Washington and Moscow to get serious about resolving this issue by conducting mutual inspections and taking necessary confidence-building steps. The onus for the dissolution of the treaty should fall heavily on the side, which refuses this obvious path on INF and fails to pursue the rejuvenation of talks on strategic arms control.

Germany can buttress its diplomatic initiatives on this and other nuclear issues by fulfilling its commitment to increase its defense budget. Russia takes seriously NATO’s policy of regarding an attack on any member as an attack on all members. The best way to increase the credibility of NATO’s mutual defense commitment is for Germany to strengthen its conventional defenses, continue hosting the deployment of U.S. troops, and participating in the modest but important defense measures in the Baltic states.

I hope Germany will remember that Trump became president through our peculiar electoral college system, which awarded him the job after losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million. Although our system may be flawed, it does self-correct, and that slow process has begun. America is, at long last, rising to the challenge that Trump poses to our institutions and our friends in the world. Our press is vibrant; our courts remain independent; and the mid-term elections have just returned control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the opposition party; even the executive branch agencies have just delivered a stinging rebuke to the administration’s shameful denial of climate change science.

I especially want to highlight the significance of the Democratic Party winning control over the House of Representatives. Defense funding must pass the Senate and the House to become law. Democratic Party leaders have been opposed to Trump’s plan to introduce new nuclear weapons and they advocate a “no-first-use” policy for the U.S. deterrent.

There will be tensions as Germany looks after its obligations and pursues its national interests. But Americans need to remember what close friends do to protect each other from folly. My model is the refusal of Germany to join the United States and Britain in their disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Our long-term interests were betrayed by London; not by Berlin. Likewise, when the United States violated its commitments under the 7-party Iran Nuclear Deal, Germany, Britain, and France are trying to honor theirs. A focus on our mutual long-term interests is important for the difficult days ahead.

 

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann for the Polis 180 Fireside Chat: Powerless Europe? The Future of Nuclear Weapons Policy in Europe, Berlin, Germany

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Fighting Against the Current: The Pursuit of Nuclear Arms Control in the Coming Year

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By Greg Thielmann
Hertie School of Governance
Berlin, Germany, Nov. 26

Let me begin by recognizing the “elephant in the room” – Donald Trump. Last May, America’s president announced that the U.S would pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six other states. Five weeks ago, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In recent weeks, North Korea has made obvious that Trump’s depiction of Kim Jung-un’s agreement to de-nuclearize North Korea was greatly exaggerated. And the Trump administration continues to stall on President Putin’s invitation to extend the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty when it expires in 2021.

It is obvious that President Trump is at least partly responsible for the perilous position of nuclear arms control as we approach the end of 2018. He is both ignorant of the subject and disinterested in learning; he instinctively rejects the concept of shared interests with other nations; he dismisses any agreement negotiated by his predecessor; and he has now placed the National Security Council under the malign influence of arms control skeptic John Bolton.

But Trump-bashing aside, I want to step back and mention some underlying, “pre-existing conditions” that are relevant to the question of enhancing mutual security through arms control.

Vladimir Putin made a serious error in rejecting President Obama’s offer to follow up New START with an additional 1/3 reduction in the level of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Instead of tightening future constraints, Putin apparently authorized the testing and deployment of a new missile banned by the INF Treaty, undermining a regional balance of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces that had held for a quarter-century. Even more consequential for Europe was his violation of Russia’s commitment in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum to “respect the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine.”

But, of course, Russia was not alone in complicating arms control progress:

  • U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 was a huge mistake.
  • It is also regrettable that the U.S. encouraged Ukraine and Georgia to consider NATO membership since it was understandably viewed in Moscow as a provokatsia.
  • And I believe that the U.S. badly mishandled evidence that Russia was violating the INF Treaty. Instead of employing the treaty’s proven mechanism to resolve compliance issues through expert discussions and on-site inspections, Washington simply sought to extract a confession from Moscow in high-level talks, while withholding (for intelligence reasons) the details of the incriminating evidence it had obtained and curtly dismissing compliance issues raised by Russia.

Given the U.S. reaction to Soviet ballistic missile defense investments in the 1960s, it’s ironic that the U.S. has been so insensitive to Moscow’s expressions of concern about the construction of a U.S. ballistic missile defense infrastructure in Eastern Europe.

The Aegis Ashore program to deploy SM3 interceptors in Romania and Poland was devised to protect the U.S. and Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the Middle East. The U.S. initially assessed that Iran could test ICBMs by 2015 and that such missiles could be armed by then with nuclear warheads. But when that year rolled around, Iran had demonstrated no interest in pursuing long-range missiles -- either ICBMs or even IRBMs. Moreover, Iran agreed to accept very stringent constraints on its ability to produce fissile material for warheads, along with unprecedented transparency measures.

And yet, the schedule for deploying the missiles in Poland to protect all of Europe against a threat that had never materialized was neither canceled nor postponed.

Meanwhile, Russia had raised concerns about the legality of the Mk-41 launchers used by these interceptors, in light of the launcher’s use on warships to launch several different kinds of missiles, including the nuclear-armed Tomahawks that were the look-alike “cousins” of the Gryphon land-attack cruise missiles banned by the INF Treaty. Yet Washington curtly dismissed Russia’s charges as propaganda.

For more than three years, Moscow denied U.S. assertions that Russia had an illicit system, claiming it didn’t know what Washington was talking about. Finally, once the U.S. specified the missile’s manufacturer and military designator, Russia acknowledged having the system but contended that the U.S. was mistaken about its range.

Both sides may have legitimate grievances, or at least plausible concerns, about actions taken by the other side. They should be energetically addressed by the treaty’s Special Verification Commission. Instead, the dialogue to date seems to consist of trading accusations about the other side’s treaty violations, while asserting that there is no basis for any suspicion of one’s own activities. Neither side has proposed mutual on-site inspections by experts to determine the capabilities of the systems in question.

The Deep Cuts Commission – a “Track 2” effort composed of US, Russian, and German security experts -- has been meeting for nearly five years to analyze challenges to nuclear arms control. The commission issued a statement November 15 with regard to INF Treaty compliance concerns, proposing that:

… both sides need to acknowledge the concerns of the other side and that Washington and Moscow should agree to reciprocal visits by experts to examine the missiles and the deployment sites in dispute. If the 9M729 missile is determined to have a range that exceeds 500 km, Russia could modify the missile to ensure it no longer violates the treaty or…halt production and eliminate any such missiles and [their] associated launchers.

For its part, the [U.S.] could modify its missile defense launchers to clearly distinguish them from the launchers used to fire offensive missiles from [U.S.] warships, or agree to transparency measures that give Russia confidence the launchers [ashore] cannot fire offensive missiles.

For decades, the INF Treaty has provided an important buttress for stability in Europe by constraining nuclear superpower arsenals. Moreover, the treaty framework could also provide a valuable foundation for addressing new challenges to stability in the sub-strategic category of nuclear systems. There is still a chance that further diplomatic efforts can save the treaty. We should all press hard toward this objective. If Moscow and Washington let it die, we will all soon regret it.

 

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Remarks by Greg Thielmann to the Hertie School of Governance panel discussion in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 26

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Trump Challenges Europeans Over Iran Deal


October 2018
By Terry Atlas and Kelsey Davenport

The Iran nuclear deal remains on life support, as U.S. President Donald Trump redoubles his efforts to kill an arrangement that is successfully restraining Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25, denouncing what he called the “corrupt dictatorship” in Iran. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Nearly five months after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 accord, Iran continues to comply with restrictions on its nuclear activities as the European Union, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom seek work-arounds to renewed U.S. sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote in a Sept. 23 column in The Washington Post that he is allowing a “short grace period” to see what the other parties to the accord, including Russia and China, are able to do to offset Trump’s pressure tactics, notably U.S. efforts to prevent Iranian oil sales. U.S. officials are pressuring states that import Iranian oil to cut purchases or face severe sanctions that will enter back into effect Nov. 5.

The other parties to the nuclear deal met at the United Nations on Sept. 24, the eve of Trump’s second General Assembly address, to assess what they called “practical proposals” to offset U.S. actions and to protect “legitimate business” dealings with Iran. Afterward, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said the parties agreed to establish a “special purpose vehicle” to facilitate purchases of Iranian imports and exports, including oil.

“In practical terms, this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran, and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law,” she said. “And it will be open to other partners in the world.”

This puts the countries, including close U.S. allies, in direct defiance of Trump, who told the General Assembly on Sept. 25 that the United States will increase its “campaign of economic pressure” on Tehran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, warned allies and others against trying to evade sanctions.

Bolton characterized the European plan as just rhetoric and suggested any such action would have consequences. “We do not intend to have our sanctions evaded by Europe or by anyone else,” he said in a speech Sept. 25 detailing the administration’s redlines for Iranian leaders.

Trump, at the UN, said the oil-related sanctions will be followed by other punitive measures to thwart what he characterized as a “corrupt dictatorship” that still harbors nuclear weapons ambitions and foments turmoil in the Middle East through its support of militant groups.

“We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues,” he said. Further, using language linked to potential regime change, he said, “[W]e ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.”

But it is the United States that appears isolated. At a special UN Security Council session chaired by Trump Sept. 26, called to highlight nonproliferation priorities, top leaders one after the other directly criticized his decision to abandon the Iran deal and urged Tehran to continue to comply with the accord.

The Trump administration, which denies an overt goal of regime change, has said it is seeking to force Iran to negotiate a more wide-ranging deal that includes restraints on its regional interference and ballistic missile program and tighter restrictions on nuclear activities.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the UN General Assembly on September 25. World leaders gathered for the 73rd annual meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)Iran has ruled out such talks, at least until the United States returns to the nuclear accord negotiated during the Obama administration. Trump’s offer of direct talks “is not honest or genuine” given his actions, Rouhani said in his column. Rouhani told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25 that beginning a dialogue starts with ending threats and unjust sanctions.

The Europeans have been particularly determined to try to preserve the 2015 pact because it has effectively halted Iran’s nuclear advances and reopened a lucrative market for European trade and because they are alarmed by a drift toward an imaginable U.S. war with Iran, encouraged by Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is unclear whether their new initiatives to shield companies from U.S. sanctions will have much effect, with major European companies already abandoning Iran.

More important may be what actions Iran’s biggest oil purchasers, China and India, take in light of the U.S. sanctions. Both have substantially reduced oil purchases, although it is uncertain what Beijing may decide in light of growing trade disputes with the Trump administration.

Iran agreed to the nuclear deal in return for the lifting of U.S., EU, and UN sanctions, hoping for a boost to the country’s struggling economy. In the face of rising tensions with the Trump administration and internal mismanagement of the economy, the value of the Iranian currency has plummeted by as much as 70 percent in the past year, fueling protests against Rouhani’s government.

Iranian officials have said they could restart nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium at prohibited levels, within days if there is a decision to do so. An Iranian decision to exit the nuclear deal might play well for anti-U.S. sentiment, but would pose a different set of risks for the regime.

Iran has continued to abide by the terms of the nuclear agreement, according to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Aug. 20, the first since the United States began reimposing sanctions Aug. 7. The report also said Iran is abiding by the deal’s more intrusive IAEA monitoring and verification mechanisms, which provide inspector access “to all the sites and locations” necessary to visit.

The IAEA reports do not contain any details on what sites the agency visits outside of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but there are some indications that inspections took place at two universities in Iran in July. According to several news outlets, protests broke out over the IAEA presence.

The report does not mention a reported new advanced-centrifuge production facility. The official Iranian news agency IRNA on Sept. 9 quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that the facility is “fully complete and set up.” The construction of such a facility does not violate the deal, but it would be a violation if Tehran manufactured centrifuges outside of the narrow scope of production permitted by the accord.

The IAEA report also does not mention the stolen trove of secret Iranian documents, which Israel disclosed earlier this year, relating to Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities. But Nicole Shampaine, a U.S. official at the U.S. Mission in Vienna, told the IAEA Board of Governors Sept. 12 that the United States supports the “IAEA’s careful assessment of the newly acquired archive materials from Iran’s past nuclear weapons program. She said the existence of the documentation demonstrates that Iran “sought to preserve the information and expertise from that past program.”

EU plans steps to get around U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Iran Continues to Meet JCPOA Limits, Despite Sanctions

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Iran Pushes for EU Measures to Preserve Oil Sales | P4+1 and Iran Nuclear Deal Alert, September 7, 2018

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