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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

THE NPT AT 50: Successes, Challenges, and Steps Forward for Nonproliferation


June 2018
By Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein

Fifty years after the opening for signature of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT], there are many reasons to celebrate, not least among them is the continued salience and importance of this treaty.

Now, there is the addition of a new and exciting legal instrument, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which will make a strong contribution to the NPT's Article VI obligation for states-parties to pursue nuclear disarmament. The new treaty is truly groundbreaking, not only in its prohibitions on the weapons but also in its acknowledgment of the role of the hibakusha, its provisions on victim assistance and cooperation on the environment, and its commitments to disarmament education and the full and equal participation of men and women in the work of the treaty.

Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken (center) listens to the debate at the First Committee of the General Assembly on October 8, 1958. Also shown in the photo are (front row, left to right): L. Vitetti (Italy); Abba Eban (Israel); H. Jawad (Iraq); and D. Abdoh (Iran).  (UN Photo/MB)In 1958, Ireland's foreign minister, Frank Aiken, introduced at the United Nations the first of the Irish resolutions that would eventually lead to the adoption of the NPT a decade later. At that time, the prospect was very real of a world where many actors, state and nonstate, would eventually acquire the means and the technology to build their own nuclear arsenals. In his speech, which remains as prescient and true today as it was 60 years ago, Aiken spoke of how weapons that are the monopoly of the great powers today become the weapons of smaller powers and revolutionary groups tomorrow. He made clear that, while abolition of the weapons and permanent disarmament was Ireland's goal, the immediate pragmatic need was to prevent further dissemination of the weapons.

As we assess the NPT at 50, we can, I believe, agree that the treaty has, to a good extent, achieved its objectives. Very few states have remained outside the treaty and have gone on to develop nuclear weapons. It is indeed one of the most participated-in UN treaties. The five nuclear-weapon states have all joined and therefore are bound by the commitment to nuclear disarmament contained within Article VI, which remains the core legal obligation binding the nuclear-weapon states to disarm. This is also evidenced by the unequivocal undertaking that they gave in 2000 to accomplish the total abolition of their nuclear weapons.

Additionally, the states of many regions of the world have chosen to be part of nuclear-weapon-free zones in strong demonstration of their commitment to the objective of a world without nuclear weapons. Some of the strongest voices in the room at the prohibition treaty negotiations came from these regions and brought the strength of their convictions and experience to the treaty negotiations.

The NPT itself is a slim treaty, its preamble and 11 articles fitting easily on six standard letter-size pages. But the international community has built around it a strong framework of supporting institutions. The International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] in particular, though predating and independent from the NPT, has built up an impressive structure of expertise and an enabling framework to facilitate that use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes while implementing strict safeguards that prevent diversion to nonpeaceful uses.

With the development of supporting export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, states have been successfully assisted in preventing and inhibiting proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology without preventing transfer of technology and materials for peaceful uses. This aspect of the treaty is also an essential one to which states parties need to continue to give careful support and attention.

The NPT has also, through the strengthened review process agreed at the 1995 review and extension conference, helped to promote and give impetus to many far-reaching agreements and understandings aimed at preventing further proliferation and enabling bilateral nuclear disarmament. The bilateral accords between Russia and the United States have also been greatly supportive of the NPT aims, with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks treaty, and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty [New START] contributing to a welcome and significant reduction in the large stockpiles of nuclear warheads that had built up during the Cold War.

Equally, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] must also be counted among the NPT successes. While it hasn't entered into force, the strength of the global norm, which has been established against nuclear testing, and the development of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization’s International Monitoring System rank among the great achievements of the international community in nuclear disarmament.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represents the NPT's latest success story. The first new legal instrument on nuclear disarmament to be adopted in over 20 years, it is a success story not only because of its groundbreaking content but also because of what it entails in terms of progress toward the fulfillment of the NPT's disarmament provisions. NPT Article VI expressly envisaged a separate and complementary treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein speaks at the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on April 19 in Washington. (Photo: Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)The prohibition treaty is not founded on a grand bargain whereby states agree to give up the possible military advantages and the status attached to being nuclear weapons possessors in exchange for an agreement that the nuclear-weapon states will disarm. Instead, the states who adopt the treaty agree to an unambiguous and unconditional commitment that they will never under any circumstances develop, test, produce, manufacturer, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

I think Frank Aiken, 50 years after the entry into force of the NPT, would be pleased that the prohibition treaty finally implements and gives effect to the NPT's disarmament provision, that almost two-thirds of the UN membership are committed to the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, and that this took place from an appreciation of the elevated risk and catastrophic consequences that would result from a nuclear weapons detonation, accidental or deliberate.

For the security of all humanity and the future of our fragile planet, our states are making this choice. It is our great hope that, in time, all others including the nuclear weapons possessor states and their allies will join us.

Aiken was a strong supporter of the idea of the sovereign equality of all states and a firm believer in the equalizing power of the United Nations. He would, I think, have approved of the inclusive and respectful nature of the deliberations that led to the adoption of the treaty, both in the 2016 open-ended working group so ably chaired by Ambassador Thani Thongphakdi of Thailand and also at the prohibition negotiations where Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica played such a strong role in bringing the deliberations on the treaty to a successful conclusion.

In addition to the prohibition treaty, there have been other welcome advances in disarmament and arms control in recent years, including the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty [ATT] in 2014, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015, and the agreements at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to establish a group of governmental experts to address the challenges raised by autonomy in weapons systems. These achievements show that the international community, states, and civil society can achieve our goals when we can agree and focus on a common purpose.

But huge challenges confront us. Growing urbanization has led to massive increases in civilian casualty rates and damage to civilian infrastructure in our cities from the use of conventional explosive weapons. The Iran nuclear accord, negotiated with such effort and attention and despite careful and positive implementation assessment by the IAEA, is under threat. The ATT is experiencing significant challenges in universalization and in implementation, while 100 years on from the Battle of Ypres, chemical weapons are again being used in war and to assassinate, despite the universal prohibition on their use.

Meanwhile, nuclear disarmament by the NPT nuclear-weapon states has stalled. Bilateral nuclear disarmament between the United States and Russia, undertaken following the successes of [the] INF [Treaty] and New START, has halted. After the successful outcome of the NPT's 2010 review conference with its ambitious but achievable action plan, including an innovative approach to progress on a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, the 2015 conference did not agree on an outcome. The CTBT, despite the previously mentioned successes, has still not lived up to its promise of an end to the damage and destruction caused by nuclear testing by entering into force.

Modernization and investment in nuclear arsenals is rising in all nuclear-weapon states, and efforts to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in military doctrines and in nuclear alliances has receded. Proliferation threats are increasing, with North Korea’s nuclear program representing a particular dangerous development. Against this background, the norm against the threat of use of nuclear weapons has been seriously eroded. The world's citizens, after decades of post-Cold War complacency, are awakening to the harsh reality that, yes, nuclear weapons do still exist and that the hands of the Doomsday clock are yet again at two minutes to midnight.

So what to do amid this somewhat grim background when we have seen disarray and lack of agreement at the UN Security Council on an issue in which there should be overwhelming global agreement and abhorrence—chemical weapons use? It seems utopian to suggest that NPT states-parties should renew their efforts to engage with each other and genuinely find ways forward to overcome the divisions on approaches to nuclear disarmament that have become evident in recent years.

But that is exactly what we need to do. If the NPT could be negotiated and adopted at the height of the Cold War, then a renewed commitment to its implementation and the establishment of dialogue among its states-parties is more than possible. I am not going to list here the 13 steps or the actions from the 2010 NPT action plan on which all are agreed. Neither am I going to set out the steps put forward by the proponents of the progressive, or step-by-step, approach to nuclear disarmament.

Ireland and the other delegations to the prohibition treaty are all committed to making progress on these measures, and many of our countries have engaged actively in the work to make them happen. There is, however, one issue to address in more detail, the question of the Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. As we reach the midpoint of the NPT's 2020 review cycle with little or no progress, it is time for serious stocktaking and reassessment of how to achieve some progress on this issue despite the challenges and difficulties. Otherwise, the risk that the 2020 review cycle will also fail to agree on an outcome is strong, with a resulting strongly negative impact on the treaty.

Ireland proposed at last year's preparatory committee that a dedicated resource should be provided possibly within the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs to assist the co-conveners and other interested states and civil society actors to develop creative and innovative proposals and, in particular, confidence-building measures that could begin to move the process forward. Trust and confidence are key to the success of any negotiation, and this is what we need most of all.

Recently, Ireland celebrated an auspicious moment in our history, 20 years of the Good Friday agreement and the success of the Northern Ireland peace process. The agreement has had many challenges. It hasn't always lived up to its promise as a beacon of hope and reconciliation, but it has endured, and the hard-earned peace that is represented has lasted in spite of all the difficulties, including those that confront it today.

That achievement wasn't built in a few weeks of negotiations and only through the dedication and preparedness to take risks of some leaders, though that wasn't lacking either. But rather, it was built through decades of work within communities, schools, churches, within labor movements, business associations, political parties, academics, think tanks, working together or as individuals to establish lines of communication, to start a conversation, to build bridges instead of walls, to have a cup of coffee instead of shouting across the barricades. Mostly it was built by starting conversations and by listening to the other’s viewpoint. It was also built by women reacting to the loss and devastation within their communities and determined to end the violence once and for all.

Within the NPT process, there often is talk of needing to identify the bridge builders. Those states, groups of states, civil society actors, leaders who can find a way forward to bridge the divisions between those who seek immediate and nonconditioned implementation of the NPT's disarmament provisions and related commitments and those who believe that, while nuclear disarmament is the ultimate goal of the NPT, the conditions are not yet right for it to happen.

With the second NPT preparatory committee, we can all be bridge builders, those who believe that nuclear disarmament is essential to creating the conditions for a peaceful and secure world and those who believe we must create a peaceful and secure world before nuclear disarmament can happen.

When speaking of the Good Friday agreement and the need for renewed commitment to its implementation and objectives, Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said renewal does not demand perfection. It demands leadership, courage, and hard work. For the NPT, we also need leadership, courage, and hard work. Most of all, we need to begin a dialogue to find what works and what can bring us nearer to the realization of our mutual goal, a world without nuclear weapons and a successful outcome to the 2020 NPT review cycle.

There are already some promising green shoots in the chairman's draft summary from last year's preparatory meeting, including the recognition of gendered impacts of nuclear weapons and the need to increase women's participation in nuclear disarmament forums. As Pope Francis has said, a world without nuclear weapons will not be this world just without nuclear weapons, it will be a different world. For those of us who want that different world, it's time to begin both imagining and creating it.


Jackie O’Halloran Bernstein recently completed her posting as director for disarmament and nonproliferation at Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is adapted from her keynote address to the annual meeting of the Arms Control Association on April 19 in Washington.

The treaty has, to a good extent, achieved its objectives. Very few states have remained outside the treaty and have gone on to develop nuclear weapons.

THE NPT AT 50: A Historical Timeline


June 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball

The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was opened for signature on July 1, 1968. Under Articles I and II of the treaty, the nuclear‑weapon states agree not to help non-nuclear-weapon states to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, and the non-nuclear-weapon states permanently forswear the pursuit of such weapons.

William Foster, chief U.S. negotiator on the NPT, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and later Chair of the Arms Control Association Board, signs the NPT July 1, 1968, as President Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson look on. U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk is seated next to the president, and a number of ambassadors are seated at the far end of the table, including Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin (fifth from right among those seated). Photo courtesy of Larry WeilerArticle VI commits each of the states‑parties “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” Acknowledging the necessity of intermediate steps in the process of nuclear disarmament, Article VII allows for the establishment of regional nuclear-weapon-free-zones.

With its near-universal membership, the NPT has the widest adherence of any arms control agreement. Every five years, the 190 states-parties meet to assess progress on achieving key objectives and provide opportunities to discuss new measures to strengthen the treaty.

The negotiation and the indefinite extension of the NPT was not inevitable. Its future viability depends on continued leadership and action to realize its lofty objectives.

1950s

July 29, 1957: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comes into existence with the mission of promoting and overseeing the peaceful use of nuclear technology. October 17, 1958: Ireland proposes the first resolution at the United Nations to prohibit the “further dissemination of nuclear weapons.”

1960s

December 4, 1961: The UN General Assembly unanimously approves Resolution 1665, which is based on the earlier Irish draft resolution and calls for negotiations to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states. March 21, 1963: In a press conference, President John Kennedy warns, “I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have [nuclear] weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.” February 14, 1967: The Treaty of Tlatelolco, the first of five nuclear weapons free zones is negotiated. August 24, 1967: The United States and Soviet Union separately introduce identical draft treaties to the Eighteen- Nation Committee on Disarmament on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. June 12, 1968: The UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 2373, endorsing the draft text of the NPT. The vote was 95 to 4 with 21 abstentions. July 1, 1968: The NPT is opened for signature and is signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. China and France would not join the treaty until 1992.

1970s

March 5, 1970: The NPT enters into force with 46 states-parties. September 3, 1974: The IAEA publishes the “trigger list” developed by the Zangger Committee, identifying nuclear items that require IAEA safeguards as a condition of export. May 30, 1975: The 91 states-parties to the NPT hold the treaty’s first review conference. The treaty members decide to hold such conferences to review the implementation of the treaty every five years. January 11, 1978: States participating in the voluntary Nuclear Suppliers Group provide the IAEA with a common set of guidelines they will follow in making nuclear exports.

1980s

India, Pakistan, North Korea, and South Africa advanced their nuclear weapons efforts in relative secrecy. Iran began to secretly acquire uranium-enrichment-related technology from Pakistani suppliers. Taiwan’s covert nuclear weapons program was shut down under U.S. pressure. Argentina and Brazil jointly declare they will pursue nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes. Thirty more states join the NPT during the decade.

1990s

April 3, 1991: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 687 requiring Iraq to eliminate its secret nuclear weapons program, which was revealed after the Iraqi defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. July 10, 1991: South Africa accedes to the NPT. May 23, 1992: Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine sign the Lisbon Protocol committing Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states-parties vote to extend the treaty indefinitely May 11, 1995 at UN Headquarters in New York. (Photo: Jon Levy/AFP/Getty Images)to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states and relinquish the nuclear weapons they inherited from the Soviet Union. April 1, 1993: The IAEA declares North Korea in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations and refers Pyongyang to the UN Security Council. April 11, 1995: The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 984 acknowledging the unilateral pledges by the five nuclear-weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to the NPT. May 11, 1995: At the fifth NPT review conference, the states-parties agree to the treaty’s indefinite extension and a package of principles and objectives on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament to hold NPT states-parties, particularly the nuclear-weapon states, accountable to their commitments. September 24, 1996: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is opened for signature. May 15, 1997: The IAEA adopts the Model Additional Protocol to enhance inspection authorities to guard against clandestine nuclear weapons activities.

2000sPresident Barack Obama reaffirms U.S. support for the NPT and steps to achieve “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” on April 5, 2009 in Prague. (Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

May 22, 2000: The NPT states-parties agree to a final document at the sixth review conference that outlines the so-called 13 steps for progress toward nuclear disarmament, including an “unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.” January 10, 2003: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the NPT. June 6, 2003: The IAEA issues a report detailing Iranian clandestine nuclear activities that Tehran failed to report to the agency, in violation of its safeguards agreement. December 19, 2003: Libya announces that it will dismantle its WMD programs, including a secret nuclear weapons program, and agrees to IAEA inspections and adherence to an additional protocol. September 19, 2005: North Korea commits to abandoning its nuclear weapons and programs and returning to the NPT and to IAEA safeguards in an agreement of the six-party talks on North Korean denuclearization. September 6, 2008: The Nuclear Suppliers Group agrees to permit trade in nuclear material and technology with India, despite that country’s status as a nonparty to the NPT and de facto nuclear-weapon state.

2010s

May 2010: The eighth NPT review conference agrees to 64-point action plan to strengthen implementation of the treaty. February 5, 2011: The New START agreement between the United States and Russia to cut strategic and offensive arms enters into force. It will expire in 2021 unless extended by mutual agreement. November 2012: The conveners (Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the UN) of a conference to establish a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East announce that the conference will be postponed because not all states in the region agree on an agenda for the conference. March 2013: Norway hosts the first of three Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, with participation from more than 120 states. The conferences focused on scientific findings on the impact of nuclear weapons use on humans, the environment, and global climate.

April 27–May 22, 2015: The ninth Review Conference for the NPT fails to reach consensus on a final conference document over differences about convening a conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and disagreements over the pace of implementation of Article VI. A group of 107 states join the “Humanitarian Pledge,” which calls on states “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” July 14, 2015: Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to curtail Iran sensitive nuclear fuel cycle activities under strengthened safeguards. November 2016: UN General Assembly First Committee approves a resolution for a negotiating conference on a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons by a vote of 123-38 with 16 abstentions. July 7, 2017: The second and final round of negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons concluded with states voting 122-1-1 to adopt the treaty. September 20th, 2017: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is opened for signature.

Major nuclear nonproliferation developments

Urgent Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race


June 2018
By Thomas M. Countryman and Andrei Zagorski

For more than 50 years, the leaders of the United States and Russia have recognized the value of nuclear arms control. In the past two decades, agreements between Washington and Moscow resulted in significant reductions in both nations’ nuclear weapons arsenals in a reciprocal, transparent, and verifiable manner.

Nuclear arms control treaties and the associated dialogue they fostered have enabled both countries to reduce and manage the risks of nuclear confrontation and competition throughout the course of the Cold War and beyond. Today, with relations among Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, nuclear arms control is even more vital to contain nuclear risks, ease worsening U.S.-Russian tensions, and prevent a new nuclear arms race that would be costly and dangerous.

Russian servicemen march in Red Square May 6 during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. Russia marked the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9. (Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)Nuclear arms control has been particularly important during past times of U.S.-Russian tensions. It minimized the possibility for miscalculation or misinterpretation of military activities and headed off unintended or inadvertent escalation. The harrowing experience of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 demonstrated the critical importance of effective dialogue. The maintenance of strategic stability is key to ensuring that U.S. and Russian nuclear policies are more predictable and less dangerous to one another and to the world.

Measures such as reciprocal obligations, timely implementation of agreements, and verifiable compliance with nuclear arms control commitments have assured the leadership on each side that the other was not seeking military advantage. Yet, should the nuclear arms control regime be permitted to erode or even collapse, such assurances would evaporate. Each side would be more likely to adapt worst-case assumptions and move toward unconstrained nuclear competition.

Arms control is also vital for addressing mounting challenges of nuclear proliferation. Should the United States and Russia enter a new nuclear arms race, it would be more difficult to prevent further spread of nuclear weapons. It would diminish the effectiveness of the regime based on the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which is central to addressing the acute proliferation challenges posed by North Korea and Iran. This would further complicate the maintenance of peace and stability.

The world should share concern that not only is further reduction in nuclear stockpiles difficult in the near term, but even existing nuclear arms control agreements are now at risk. Washington and Moscow are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, with each side exceeding reasonable deterrence requirements.

Further, a compliance dispute threatens the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is set to expire in early 2021, unless it is extended by agreement of the U.S. and Russian presidents or replaced by a follow-on accord. Should the INF Treaty collapse and New START expire without replacement, there will be no longer any legally binding limitations on the world’s two largest nuclear stockpiles. The consequences for effective cooperative management of nuclear risks and for nuclear nonproliferation would be severe.

Looking Ahead

In light of the challenging circumstances, Russia and the United States should pursue, on a priority basis, effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race by strengthening nuclear arms control instruments. The most recent authoritative statements from both capitals indicate
that this is not impossible.

The report of the 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, conducted by the Trump administration, recognizes that arms control measures can “contribute to U.S., allied, and partner security by helping to manage strategic competition among states,” as well as serving to provide a “useful degree of cooperation and confidence among states” and “foster transparency, understanding, and predictability in adversary relations, thereby reducing the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.”1

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addresses U.S. and Georgian troops participating in the Noble Partner 2017 multinational military exercise on August 1, 2017. Pence arrived in Tbilisi from Estonia, where he reaffirmed U.S. support for the Baltic nations and accused neighboring Russia of seeking to "redraw international borders" and "undermine democracies." (Photo: John W. Strickland/U.S. Army)In addition to reconfirming the U.S. commitment to arms control, the report emphasizes the willingness of Washington to engage in a “prudent arms control agenda” and to “consider arms control opportunities” and further nuclear reductions. The U.S. Strategic Command, which directs U.S. nuclear forces, confirms that it remains “committed to strategic stability with China and Russia.”2

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted in an interview with NBC that New START would expire soon and stated the readiness of Russia to continue a dialogue on nuclear arms control, to maintain the regime established by the treaty, and to discuss further reductions in nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles.3 Russian officials link any further progress in nuclear arms reductions to addressing other issues that may affect strategic stability, such as the deployment of a global U.S. missile defense system; development of high-precision, non-nuclear strategic offensive arms, and the possibility of offensive weapons in outer space.

As their March 20 telephone conversation revealed, Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump keep the need to curb a nuclear arms race on their mutual agenda.4 Pursuing such measures does not imply or require a restoration of “business as usual” between the two countries. In fact, when Russian-U.S. political relations are at their worst, it remains in the vital interests of the United States, Europe, and Russia to contain nuclear tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

Recognizing the difficulties for returning to a comprehensive and complex bilateral and multilateral arms control agenda, the United States and Russia can and should take a number of steps in that direction as soon as possible. Following are the most urgent steps.

Immediately extend New START. On February 5, 2018, the United States and Russia achieved the central limits of New START, which took full effect on that date.5 The treaty imposes important bounds on strategic nuclear competition between the two superpowers. As long as the Russian and U.S. programs of nuclear forces modernization remain within the limits established by the treaty, it meets its objective of managing the strategic stability between the two nuclear states.

Although due to expire in February 2021, the treaty can be extended by up to five years by agreement between the two countries, without requiring further action by the U.S. Congress or the Russian Duma. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages, not only the numerical limits but also the mutual transparency provided by the treaty’s verification measures. Those measure include data exchanges, notifications, and inspections. An extension would buy time for the two countries to discuss other stabilizing measures, including further reductions in their nuclear stockpiles.

Russian officials suggested in 2017 a dialogue with Washington on an extension of New START, but U.S. officials wanted to wait until the treaty’s limits were achieved and the Nuclear Posture Review was completed. Both conditions are now met. A swift extension of the treaty until 2026 could have the important benefit of improving the bilateral political atmosphere.

On April 11, Robert Soofer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the administration will begin a review soon to assess the “pros and cons” of extending the treaty. Anita Friedt, acting assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting on April 19 that an extension “is something we’re looking at” but that there is no target date for the completion of the review. Friedt added that the administration will take into account Russian compliance with other arms control agreements when weighing whether to extend New START.6

Agreement on an extension would provide a positive achievement on the U.S.-Russian agenda and would help to fulfill their disarmament commitments under Article VI of the NPT. If New START is not extended, then in 2021 there will be no legally binding limits on the world’s two largest strategic arsenals for the first time since 1972. Unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, in numbers and technology, would spark an arms race even more dangerous than that of the 1950s and 1960s.

Resolve the INF Treaty compliance dispute. The INF Treaty made a major contribution to European and global security by eliminating all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations and the United States stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation.

A collapse of the INF Treaty would end a landmark arms-reduction agreement; open the door to a U.S.-Russian arms race in intermediate-range missiles; further complicate relations among the United States, Europe, and Russia; and have negative repercussions for the entire arms control agenda.

So far, the United States and Russia have reaffirmed their commitment to the treaty and have taken some steps to discuss their noncompliance complaints. Two meetings of the Special Verification Commission, established by the treaty to resolve compliance disputes, took place in 2016 and 2017. Those talks helped clarify the complaints, but did not result in any progress on resolving the disputes.

The United States and Russia should intensify such efforts. As a next step, they should provide each other with demonstrations and technical briefings to answer U.S. questions about the range of the Russian 9M729 (SSC-8) ground-launched cruise missile and Russian questions about the ability of MK-41 launchers in Romania and Poland, intended for Standard Missile-3 missile defense interceptors, to hold offensive missiles.

Yet, no further meetings of U.S. and Russian technical experts are scheduled to address this dispute. A resolution requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.

Maintain regular dialogue on strategic stability. After a break of several years, U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability consultations in September 2017, but subsequently postponed a follow-up round to be held in March. They should make this dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.

Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile systems roll through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9. (Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)Given the evolving nature of strategic stability, maintaining stability today is a more complex question than during the Cold War. Whereas strategic stability previously focused only on U.S. and Russian strategic offensive nuclear forces, with some attention to ballistic missile defense, today’s stability model must account for third-country actors and new concepts and technological advances, such as precision-guided conventional strike systems and actions in the cyber and space domains.

The dialogue should also include U.S., NATO, and Russian military issues, with a view to enhancing understanding and avoiding misperceptions. One topic should be the so-called Russian escalate to de-escalate doctrine, which posits a limited use of nuclear weapons in order to stop an overwhelming conventional attack on Russia. Russian officials deny this is an official doctrine, but it is taken as a reality by NATO planners and in the Nuclear Posture Review. An earnest dialogue on doctrine is essential in order to avoid lowering the threshold for use of nuclear weapons.

U.S. and Russian diplomatic and military officials should pursue a broad, systematic, and continuing dialogue on these matters with a view to understanding the other’s concerns; clarifying misperceptions about key issues, including each side’s nuclear use doctrine; and at some point defining mandates for negotiations on specific issues. One important and most welcome first step in this direction would be publication by Russia of its more detailed nuclear posture in a format similar to that of the Nuclear Posture Review report.

Sustain military-to-military dialogue on key conventional issues. Over the past five years, the instances of U.S. and NATO military aircraft and warships and Russian military aircraft and warships operating in close proximity to one another have increased dramatically. NATO has deployed ground forces to the Baltic states and Poland, putting them in closer proximity to Russian ground forces in Russia and Kaliningrad. These raise the prospect of accidents and miscalculations that would be in neither side’s interest and that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict, especially in the Baltic region or the Black Sea.

Dangerous military incidents and brinkmanship have become a routine matter, as they were during the Cold War. The United States, NATO, and Russia have reactivated past arrangements in order to prevent incidents at sea and in the air and should continue to improve and update such arrangements. NATO and Russia should launch a sustained military-to-military dialogue on how to arrest any unintended or inadvertent escalation, avoid miscalculations, and reduce the risk of hazardous military activities in Europe.

Conclusion

Despite the current tensions and the political difficulty of returning to the arms control agenda, the prevention of a new nuclear arms race requires joint U.S.-Russian leadership and urgent steps. There is the opportunity to reduce nuclear risk by recognizing that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Important steps in that direction would come from extending New START, preserving the INF Treaty while resolving compliance disputes, and resuming discussion of the strategic stability agenda, from which both sides and the broader world community will benefit.

ENDNOTES

1. Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF.

2. John E. Hyten, statement to the U.S. House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, March 7, 2018, http://www.stratcom.mil/Portals/8/Documents/2018%20USSTRATCOM%20HASC-SF%20Posture%20Statement.pdf?ver=2018-03-07-125520-187.

3. Office of the President of Russia, “Interview to American Channel NBC,” March 10, 2018, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/57027.

4. “Readout of President Donald J. Trump’s Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia,” The White House, March 20, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/readout-president-donald-j-trumps-call-president-vladimir-putin-russia-3/.

5. Arms Control Association, “New START at a Glance,” March 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART.

6. Kingston Reif, “Administration to Review New START,” Arms Control Today, May 2018.


Thomas M. Countryman, a former acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, is chair of the board of directors of the Arms Control Association. Andrei Zagorski is director of the Department of Disarmament and Conflict Regulation at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations and a professor of international relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. This paper is adapted from an April 2018 statement by the Deep Cuts Commission, of which both are members.

With U.S.-Russia relations at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, arms control efforts are even more vital to contain nuclear risks.

REMARKS: Quitting the Iran Nuclear Deal: ‘A Serious Mistake’


June 2018

Former President Barack Obama’s May 9 statement on President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord. It has been slightly edited for length reasons.

There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.

Former President Barack Obama speaks at an innovative communications conference in Paris, on December 2, 2017. (Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images)The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working; that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. secretary of defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest; it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish; its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes, with Iran, the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.

That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.

Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So, it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.

First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program and achieved real results.

Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust. It is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.

Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until 10, 15, 20, or 25 years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.

Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior, including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in
the Middle East.

We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

Former President Barack Obama’s criticizes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord.

Nuclear-Weapon States Spar at NPT Meeting


June 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The international conference to prepare for the 2020 review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was marked by quarreling among nuclear-weapon states and revised U.S. positions put forward by the Trump administration.

Tensions among Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States about chemical weapons use in attacks in Syria and the UK, although not part of the NPT agenda, bled into the debate. An April 24 meeting among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states was unable to produce a consensus statement, but the states were united in opposition to assertions by non-nuclear-weapon states that the nuclear powers have not adequately complied with their NPT Article VI obligations to pursue nuclear disarmament negotiations in good faith.

U.S. officials brief reporters April 26 at the 2018 NPT preparatory conference. The speakers (left to right) were Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation; Anita Friedt, acting assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance; and Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament. (Photo: Eric Bridiers/U.S. Mission)The Trump administration said that U.S. disarmament measures would depend on changes in the international security environment. A U.S. working paper, “Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament,” presented at the conference contends that the “easing of international tension,” “strengthening of trust,” and other specific conditions are prerequisites for progress on global disarmament.

Some of the specific conditions identified include the denuclearization of North Korea; Iran’s verified compliance with its nonproliferation commitments; the recognition of the right of Israel to exist; adherence by all states to the Model Additional Protocol established by the International Atomic Energy Agency; a moratorium on the production of fissile material; a halt to the increase and diversification of Russian, Chinese, and North Korean nuclear weapons arsenals; an improvement in the transparency of nuclear policies; the development of nuclear disarmament verification technologies; and compliance by all states with all international agreements, particular by Russia with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and by “some” states with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The preparatory talks, held from April 23 to May 4 in Geneva, were divided into three thematic sections: disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. At the conclusion, Adam Bugajski of Poland, the conference chairman, presented a factual summary that was not voted on or adopted by the conference as a consensus document.

Many nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon states did agree on supporting several interim measures toward nuclear disarmament, including risk reduction efforts, negative security assurances, extension of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and the resolution of U.S.-Russian compliance disputes involving the INF Treaty.

Dozens of states emphasized their support for the Iran nuclear agreement, subsequently abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump; advocated for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), including calling for North Korea to sign and ratify the treaty; and supported the negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). The United States announced that it will officially support work toward an FMCT.

Many states welcomed recent developments, including the diplomatic moves between North and South Korea and the July 2017 adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Although France and Russia condemned the prohibition treaty, which is opposed by all the nuclear-weapon states, it was not a major point of contention at the conference.

NPT signatory states agreed on the right of all treaty parties to peaceful uses of nuclear energy and on the importance of nuclear security and nuclear safety. Many highlighted national initiatives to advance these goals.

The United States sparked a debate by stating in a working paper that “the NPT review cycle cannot be the primary mechanism for progress” on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East but that regional states should work to establish the conditions needed to make progress on the initiative. At the 2015 NPT Review Conference, disagreement on this subject blocked agreement on a final consensus document.

The Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement were among those to reject the U.S. approach, stating that the decision during the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference to indefinitely extend the NPT would not have been possible without the resolution on the Middle East calling for a WMD-free zone.

Two nonproliferation statements were circulated for members to sign during the conference. One statement, distributed by Russia and China, expressed support for the Iran nuclear accord. Another denounced North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments and welcomed the recent diplomatic overture. Some states did not sign that document because it did not include a call for North Korea to join the CTBT.

The day before the conference’s end, Bugajski released his factual summary. Nuclear-weapon states largely accepted the document and did not point out changes to be made in the document.

Other countries suggested revisions to better reflect the views expressed at the conference. New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, recommended adding a reference to maintaining the moratorium on nuclear testing pending the CTBT’s entry into force and removing the word “some” when describing nuclear modernization programs that are not consistent with NPT obligations. Several states argued that the document should assert that states had “welcomed” the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty instead of “noting” it.

The conference selected Shahrul Ikram of Malaysia to be chairman of next year’s preparatory meeting, to be held in New York.

 

Talks prepare for the major review of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2020.

Saudi Arabia Threatens to Seek Nuclear Weapons


June 2018
By Kingston Reif

In the wake U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to terminate the Iran nuclear deal, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told CNN that “if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same.”

The comments echo a similar warning from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March and could complicate U.S. efforts to negotiate and implement a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the kingdom.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman March 22 at the Pentagon. “If Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Prince Mohammed told CBS News on March 15. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)“Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Prince Mohammed told CBS News in a March 15 interview.

Saudi Arabia is a non-nuclear-weapon state-party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which prohibits the kingdom from pursuing nuclear weapons development.

Although in the past some Saudi officials and members of the royal family have hinted at matching Iran’s nuclear capability, the recent statements from the Saudi leadership have been far more explicit.

For example, asked by Reuters in January 2016 if Saudi Arabia would seek to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does, al-Jubeir said, “I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect me to answer this question one way or another.”

Saudi Arabia has been one of the few countries to praise Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which put significant, long-term constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

“We believe the nuclear deal was flawed,” al-Jubeir told CNN on May 9. “We believe the deal does not deal with Iran's ballistic missile program nor does it deal with Iran's support for terrorism.”

Neither Trump nor any member of his administration has publicly condemned the Saudi threats to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does. Some officials have even suggested the administration might look the other way if Saudi Arabia violated its NPT commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons.

When asked later that day to comment on al-Jubier’s comment, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “Right now, I don’t know that we have a specific policy announcement on that front, but I can tell you that we are very committed to making sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons.”

Long-standing, bipartisan U.S. policy has been to actively work against the spread of nuclear weapons to any country, friend or foe.

Saudi Arabia’s unabashed nuclear hedging comes as it continues to negotiate a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, known as a 123 agreement, with the Trump administration. (See ACT, April 2018.) A 123 agreement, named after the section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act that requires it, sets the terms for sharing U.S. nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries.

Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans to generate nuclear power, but currently has no nuclear power plants. The kingdom plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, according to the World Nuclear Association. It has solicited bids for the first two reactors and hopes to sign contracts by the end of this year.

A key issue in the negotiations is whether the United States will insist that Saudi Arabia agree to forgo uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing as part of a 123 agreement. These activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for nuclear power reactors and produce nuclear explosive material. To date, Saudi Arabia has resisted a ban and suggested that it seeks to make its own fuel.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said May 24 at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the administration has told the Saudis it wants “a gold standard section 123 agreement from them, which would not permit them to enrich.”

Pompeo’s comments were the first indication that the administration is seeking such an agreement. Other administration officials had refused to say whether the United States was pushing a prohibition on fuel-making activity.

Previously, Energy Secretary Rick Perry had warned lawmakers that if the administration insists on nonproliferation standards Riyadh won’t accept, Russia and China would then win contracts to build reactors in Saudi Arabia and would demand less stringent nonproliferation and security standards than does the United States.

Bipartisan opposition to an agreement that does not block Saudi fuel-making continues to mount. “We need a gold standard, and I’m afraid this administration is already going down the road of, you know, doing something different than that,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told National Journal last month.

Even if the administration does sign a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia soon, Congress could run out of time to consider it this year.

Once the executive branch submits a signed cooperation agreement to Congress, lawmakers have 90 days in continuous session to consider the pact, after which it automatically becomes law unless Congress adopts a joint resolution opposing it. That time period is rapidly closing due to a shortened election-year calendar.

Saudi comments complicate U.S. efforts to negotiate and implement a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with the kingdom.

UN Unveils Broad Disarmament Agenda


June 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

UN Secretary-General António Guterres last month presented a broad new UN strategy for disarmament, stressing a renewed urgency as “our world is going backwards” toward a new nuclear arms race.

The backdrop for his agenda, Guterres noted, is an increasingly bleak disarmament environment, including a lack of strategic dialogue among the nuclear-weapon states, the return of chemical weapons use, and the rise of conflicts that are deadly for civilians.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres presents a new UN strategy for disarmament in a speech at the University of Geneva May 24. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)Reflecting that, Guterres’ 87-page agenda is far more wide-ranging than the five-point nuclear disarmament proposal advanced in 2008 by his immediate predecessor, Ban Ki-Moon. “Disarmament concerns every country, and all weapons, from hand grenades to hydrogen bombs,” Guterres said in his speech May 24 at the University of Geneva.

Guterres’ comprehensive approach will please many constituencies, but its breadth may make it difficult to focus and make progress on individual issues. But he said that the elimination of nuclear weapons “remains our priority,” and he appealed specifically to the United States and Russia to “resolve their dispute” over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is due to expire in three years; and to “take new steps toward reducing nuclear stockpiles.”

The UN chief, who took office in January 2017, expressed concern that existing U.S.-Russian arms control agreements are “threatened as never before” and that there currently are no talks between the two powers on further reducing nuclear arsenals.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, consulted with civil society organizations to prepare the new agenda. It puts forward recommendations for actions to promote the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, restrictions on conventional weapons, and monitoring and restriction of emerging weaponized technology.

On nuclear weapons, Guterres embraced a robust set of initiatives, including encouraging states to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), establish a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, pursue nuclear risk reduction measures, and develop nuclear disarmament verification standards and techniques.

Guterres also recommended that all states affirm the norm against the use of nuclear weapons and that nuclear-weapon states should stand behind U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s assertion that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

None of these suggestions are new, and many have languished, some for decades, in international forums such as the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review meetings and the Conference on Disarmament. But nuclear disarmament verification has seen recent progress, including the creation of the 2014 International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, and the 2018 UN Group of Governmental Experts on the same subject.

Ban’s proposal made many of same recommendations, including the entry into force of the CTBT and the negotiation of an FMCT, although it had a stronger emphasis on beginning negotiations leading toward disarmament. Guterres supported these negotiations, although he suggested first generating dialogue and building confidence in formal and informal settings. In response to a question, Guterres called the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enormously important and said that it could instigate further action on disarmament.

Guterres stressed the need for accountability for the use of chemical and biological weapons. He pledged to work with UN Security Council members to create a mechanism to identify responsible actors for chemical weapons use and to work with the UN General Assembly to create a standing capacity to investigate allegations of biological weapons use.

On May 18, the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons released a statement supporting the call for a special meeting of the Chemical Weapons Convention conference of states-parties to explore options to restore accountability for chemical weapons use. The UN Security Council has failed to adopt a resolution creating a new chemical weapons accountability body after the previous one expired in November 2017 due to repeated Russian vetoes, most recently on April 10 (See ACT, May 2018.)

Turning to conventional weapons, Guterres expressed the need to protect civilians in conflict, including by raising awareness of the impact of explosive devices in populated areas and sharing best practices among states. Citing a lack of coordination among UN agencies working to prevent the spread of small arms and light weapons, Guterres announced that he would establish a “dedicated facility” to support governmental action to control these weapons.

Looking ahead, Guterres urged all states to consider the implications of new weapons technologies and their compatibility with international law. Addressing an audience mainly of students, he emphasized the crucial
role of young people in addressing future weapons technology and promoting disarmament.

“I hope you will use your power and your connections to advocate for a peaceful world free from nuclear weapons, in which weapons are controlled and regulated and resources are directed towards opportunity and prosperity for all.”

Secretary-General Guterres warns that “our world is going backwards” toward a new nuclear arms race.

White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Nuclear Weapons Threat

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For Immediate Release: May 15, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Thomas Countryman, board of directors chair, (202) 463-8270 ext 110

We are deeply disappointed by the counterproductive response from the Trump administration to the statements from senior Saudi officials threatening to pursue nuclear weapons in violation of their nonproliferation commitments.

We call on the White House to immediately reiterate the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States that it will actively work against the spread of nuclear weapons to any country, friend or foe.

President Donald Trump’s reckless decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has blocked Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place a robust monitoring system to detect and deter cheating, has not only opened the door to an expansion of Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, but it has increased the risk of a wider nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which is already home to one nuclear-armed state.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN Wednesday, May 9, that his country, which, like Iran, is a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), stands ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

Al-Jubeir also praised Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and seek to reimpose sanctions on firms and business engaging in legitimate commerce with Iran.

Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same."

Asked to clarify whether that means the kingdom will work to acquire its own nuclear capability, al-Jubeir replied, "That's what we mean."

This follows similar comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a March 15 interview with CBS News that Saudi Arabia will quickly follow suit if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

When asked May 9 whether Saudi Arabia would “have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

“Right now, I don’t know that we have a specific policy announcement on that front, but I can tell you that we are very committed to making sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons,” she stated.

The administration’s nonresponse to Prince Salman’s threat in March and Sanders’ weak response May 9 amounts to an irresponsible invitation for mischief.

They imply that Trump administration would look the other way if Saudi Arabia breaks its NPT commitments to pursue nuclear weapons.

It is bad enough that the Trump administration, by violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capacity.

President Trump and his advisors must not compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

We call on the White House to immediately clarify that it is the longstanding policy of the United States, as an original party to the NPT:

 “…not to in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons …” and “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

We also call on the U.S. Congress to reject any proposed agreement with Saudi Arabia that permits U.S. nuclear cooperation if Saudi Arabia seeks to or acquires sensitive uranium enrichment or plutonium separation technology which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

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It is bad enough that the Trump administration has violated the Iran nuclear deal and threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for expanded Iranian nuclear capacity. The president and his advisors must not now compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Glance

May 2018

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

May 2018

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a detailed, 159-page agreement with five annexes reached by Iran and the P5+1 (China France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on July 14, 2015. The nuclear deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on July 20, 2015. Iran’s compliance with the nuclear-related provisions of the JCPOA will be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) according to certain requirements set forth in the agreement. On May 8, 2018, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the JCPOA and reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. 

The following is a summary of the timeline and key components of the multi-year agreement.

Timeline for Implementation

July 14, 2015, Finalization Day: conclusion of the agreement. Finalization day triggers Iran and the United States to begin domestic review processes of the JCPOA. Iran also begins providing the IAEA with information necessary for the agency to complete its investigation into past activities related to nuclear weapons development. 

October 18, 2015, Adoption Day: 90 days after the passage of the UN Security Council Resolution endorsing the deal (July 20, 2015). Adoption day triggers Iran and the P5+1 to take steps (outlined below) to meet the commitments to fully implement the JCPOA. 

 January 16, 2016, Implementation Day: the IAEA certifies that Iran has taken the key steps to restrict its nuclear program and has put in place increased monitoring. The IAEA's report on implementation day triggers U.S., EU, and UN sanctions relief. 

  • October 2023, Transition Day: Eight years after adoption day (or the IAEA reaching its broader conclusion on Iran's nuclear program, whichever is sooner). Adoption day triggers the UN to lift missile restrictions, Iran to seek ratification of its additional protocol, the EU to terminate all remaining nuclear sanctions, United States to remove certain entities from the sanctioned list, and the United States to seek legislative termination of certain sanctions.
  • October 2025, Termination Day: Ten years after adoption day. Termination day terminates Resolution 2231 and the Security Council closes Iran's nuclear file. 

 

 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Trump Decision on Iran Deal is Foreign Policy Malpractice

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For Immediate Release: May 8, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; Thomas Countryman, Chair of the Board, 301-312-3445.

(Washington, DC)—Experts from the Washington-based Arms Control Association denounced President Donald Trump’s reported decision not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“President Trump’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal, which has successfully blocked Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, is an irresponsible act of foreign policy malpractice,” charged Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent Arms Control Association.

"Reimposing sanctions absent Iranian violations is a twofold abrogation of U.S. commitments under the JCPOA* and it is critical that members of Congress and Washington’s P5+1 partners denounce Trump’s actions as a breach of the accord. Not only did the United States commit not to reimpose sanctions, Washington also committed not to interfere with the full realization of sanctions relief,” explained Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy for the Arms Control Association.

“Trump’s action today does not kill the agreement, but it jeopardizes the future of the deal unless other partners, particularly the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), take immediate steps to insulate their companies and banks which are engaged in trade with Iran from U.S. secondary sanctions,” warned Davenport.

"We call on the E3, Russia, China, and other responsible states to pursue implementation of the JCPOA without the United States and implement measures that block the application of U.S. secondary sanctions. We also urge Tehran to continue abiding by the limits of the deal. Resuming troublesome nuclear activities limited by the accord will not serve Iran’s interests and risks provoking a deeper crisis,” Davenport said.

"European-U.S. efforts to negotiate a supplemental agreement intended to address Trump's complaints failed to yield results because Trump stubbornly refused to guarantee that he would uphold U.S. commitments under the JCPOA and demanded that Europe help to unilaterally impose major changes to the original terms of the agreement," Kimball said.

“The Iran nuclear deal is a strong nonproliferation agreement that delivers permanent and robust international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities, strictly limits its capacity to enrich uranium and prohibits other sensitive nuclear activities. Through his reckless actions, Trump is precipitating a proliferation crisis rather than working with our allies to develop a long-term diplomatic strategy to build on the agreement in the years ahead,” Kimball charged.
 

Relevant sections from the JCPOA on sanctions relief:

Paragraph 26 of the JCPOA requires:

“The United States will make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realisation of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting specified in Annex II. The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from re-introducing or re-imposing the sanctions specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA, without prejudice to the dispute resolution process provided for under this JCPOA.”

Paragraph 29 of the JCPOA requires:

“The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran inconsistent with their commitments not to undermine the successful implementation of this JCPOA.”

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