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"In my home there are few publications that we actually get hard copies of, but [Arms Control Today] is one and it's the only one my husband and I fight over who gets to read it first."

– Suzanne DiMaggio
Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
April 15, 2019
Nuclear Nonproliferation

Freezing and Reversing North Korea’s Nuclear Advances


May 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For most of the past year, North Korea’s provocative long-range missile launches and a high-yield nuclear test, combined with the reckless threats of “fire and fury” and “preventive war” from the White House, have raised tensions and increased the threat of a catastrophic conflict in the region. Some of us warned that nuclear war was closer than at any point since the Cold War.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo in April. (Photo by The White House via Getty Images)Now, in an extraordinary turnaround, an uneasy détente has emerged. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced on Jan. 1 that he wants to ease tensions with South Korea, and high-level talks between officials of the two governments were held in advance of the Winter Olympics. Through South Korean intermediaries, Kim extended a summit offer to U.S. President Donald Trump, who, to the surprise of many, immediately accepted. Although Trump deserves credit for being so bold as to agree, the North Korean nuclear problem will not be resolved in one meeting, especially if he goes off-script, acts impulsively, or carries unrealistic expectations.

The direct dialogue is overdue, it is historic, and it carries high stakes. Trump and his entire national security team must understand that this diplomacy will require preparation, patience, and persistence. To succeed, they must maintain a principled but balanced approach closely coordinated with key allies in Seoul and partners in Beijing. Further, Washington will need to address Pyongyang’s own security and economic concerns.

So far, so good. The North Koreans have expressed a willingness to consider denuclearization if their national security can be guaranteed. Reportedly, the North Koreans have said that they will not demand the removal of all U.S. forces in South Korea. Further, Kim announced April 21 that he is suspending ballistic missile and nuclear testing, is closing the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and will “join the international desire and efforts for the total halt” to nuclear tests. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim reaffirmed their intentions at their successful—and historic—inter-Korean summit April 27.

Kim is clearly confident about his position going into the summit with Trump, and he appears to be preparing his people for potential additional steps toward denuclearization if U.S. leaders negotiate in good faith and can deliver on their promises.

The table is finally set for a meaningful, sustained dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on verifiable denuclearization, normalizing diplomatic ties, and negotiating a formal end to the Korean War. Key near-term U.S. goals should be to solidify North Korea’s testing suspension, to bring about a halt to its fissile material production, to win the release of three captive U.S. citizens, and to discuss measures to further reduce tensions on the divided peninsula.

North Korea’s no-nuclear-testing pledge is very significant. The North already has a proven high-yield warhead design, but additional tests could be used to achieve military and technical advances. Leaders in Washington, Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo, and elsewhere should seek to solidify Pyongyang’s nuclear testing suspension by securing its signature and ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, along with a confidence-building visit by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

Solidifying a halt to further ballistic missile tests is also crucial because it can possibly stop the North Koreans just short of developing a reliable system to deliver their high-yield warhead. Halting production of fissile material and verifying the freeze is the next logical step, as it would put a ceiling on the potential number of nuclear devices North Korea could assemble.

If Trump could achieve all of this, it would be a major breakthrough, even if falls short of the more sweeping task of negotiating the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But Rome was not built in a day. To achieve the many additional steps toward the long-term goal of denuclearization of the peninsula and a durable peace regime, the Trump-Kim summit should also produce agreement on a balanced framework for sustained, direct, high-level negotiations on these and possibly other issues.

Trump has said that he will not repeat the mistakes of the past negotiations; likewise, Kim said April 27 that he doesn't want a repeat of the past "where we were unable to fulfill our agreements." Indeed, previous agreements had been partially successful in curbing North Korea's capabilities, but fell apart in later stages of implementation.

These negotiations will demand even greater persistence, patience and political will. Kim’s nuclear and missile capabilities are more substantial and dangerous today, his bargaining power is greater, and the cost of failure is higher. And if Trump is foolish enough to withdraw from the successful 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, Kim will be more reluctant to make concessions.

Members of Congress, for their part, should demand clarity about the administration’s strategy and regular reports on the negotiations. Yet, they should refrain from demanding specific outcomes or immediate results. The stakes are too high and the opportunity too great for such games.

Now, after a period of reckless nuclear brinksmanship, the hard work of pursuing disarmament diplomacy begins. Can Team Trump pull this off? As the president often says, “We will see.” It will not come easy, but it is better than the alternatives.


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

 

For most of the past year, North Korea’s provocative long-range missile launches and a high-yield nuclear test, combined with the reckless threats of “fire and fury” and “preventive war” from the U.S. White House, have raised tensions and increased the threat of a catastrophic conflict in the region.

Papal Condemnation of Nuclear Deterrence and What Is Next


May 2018
By Gerard Powers

At a major Vatican symposium last year, Pope Francis became the first pope to condemn explicitly not only the use of nuclear weapons but also the “the threat of their use, as well as their very possession.”1

The pope’s statement was praised by many of the 11 Nobel Peace Prize laureates and 300 church leaders, diplomats, scholars, and civil society representatives at the symposium on November 10–11, 2017. His statement and the conference were intended, in part, to further the momentum of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the Holy See had ratified on September 20, 2017, the first day it was open for signature. Predictably, critics have responded to the pope’s statement much as they did the treaty, dismissing it as naïve and utopian, a normative judgment largely irrelevant to the realities of the nuclear predicament.

Pope Francis addresses the crowd in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, shortly after celebrating Easter Mass. (Photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)The critics seem to have a point, at least for now, as massive nuclear modernization programs, faltering arms control measures, and nuclear brinksmanship harken back to the Cold War era. Yet, the Vatican tends to play the long game. Given its influence as a norm entrepreneur on nuclear weapons and a major transnational actor headed by an influential pope, the critics might want to pay attention.

Deterrence to Disarmament

The November statement is not a major change in the church’s position on nuclear weapons, as has been widely reported. Every pope in the seven decades since Hiroshima, as well as innumerable church documents, have sought to marginalize nuclear weapons and have insisted on the need for progress toward mutual, verifiable nuclear disarmament. The pope’s condemnation of nuclear use is consistent with the church’s long-standing position that the use of nuclear weapons almost certainly would be indiscriminate or disproportionate, risk escalation to nuclear war, cause irreversible harm to the environment, and would break the nuclear taboo, undermining prospects for nonproliferation and disarmament.

What is a departure of sorts is the pope’s condemnation of deterrence. In 1982, Pope John Paul II enunciated an “interim ethic” on nuclear deterrence: “In current conditions,” he said, “‘deterrence’ based on balance, certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the way toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable.”2 Pope Francis has now made a prudential moral judgment, based on his reading of today’s very different signs of the nuclear times, that the strict conditions for the moral acceptability of deterrence are not being met. He has not abandoned his predecessor’s formula, but has applied it to current conditions and come to a different prudential moral judgment.

Although Pope Francis’ customary clarity in making this judgment has received considerable attention, it is not significantly different in substance from Vatican statements since the end of the Cold War. In his 2006 World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict said that the view that states need nuclear weapons for their security is “not only baneful but also completely fallacious.”3 In 2010, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, referred to John Paul’s interim ethic and concluded that, because “nuclear deterrence is preventing genuine nuclear disarmament…the conditions that prevailed during the Cold War, which gave a basis for the church’s limited toleration of nuclear deterrence, no longer apply.”4 In a similar vein, a 2014 study document released by the Vatican concluded that because the disarmament condition for the moral acceptability of deterrence was not being met, “the very possession of nuclear weapons, even for purposes of deterrence, is morally problematic.”5

These and many other official statements have long made it clear that the nuclear powers could take no more comfort in the church’s position on nuclear weapons before the pope’s November statement than they can now. The interim ethic on deterrence was always a function of context, not time. The Holy See’s reading of the changing geopolitical signs of the times has led it to make a prudential moral judgment that time is up on the interim ethic.

One sign of the times is the judgment that the nuclear powers did not take full advantage of the historic opportunity afforded by the end of the Cold War. The Holy See has welcomed the deep cuts in U.S.-Russian nuclear stockpiles. Nevertheless, the “peace dividend” that was supposed to come with these deep cuts has not materialized. Arms control initiatives have stalled, the nuclear-weapon states have not upheld their end of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s (NPT) grand bargain, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not gone into effect, and major nuclear powers have embarked on massive modernization programs.6 Therefore, the Holy See has concluded that nuclear deterrence has not been used as a step toward disarmament but has become an end in itself, a principal impediment to disarmament.

North Korea and the 9/11 terrorist attacks are emblematic of a second sign of the nuclear times. According to the 2014 Vatican study document, “[T]he structure of nuclear deterrence is less stable and more worrisome than at the height of the Cold War” due to continued nuclear proliferation and the increased risk of nuclear weapons use, including by terrorists and unstable nuclear-armed states.7 At the same time, nuclear weapons are increasingly irrelevant in the face of terrorism, cyberwarfare, intrastate conflicts, and other major security threats.

These developments have only reinforced the Holy See’s longstanding concerns about the morally problematic nature of deterrence theories based on a conditional intention to use nuclear weapons in indiscriminate and disproportionate ways and the injustice involved in wasting scarce resources on these weapons instead of devoting them to integral human development.

One cannot understand the Holy See’s position now or during the Cold War solely in terms of these ethical and policy considerations, however important they might be. In his November address, Pope Francis cited Pope John XXIII’s understanding of “integral disarmament,” which is far more capacious than conventional understandings of the term.8

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See's secretary for Relations with States, signs the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, at the United Nations on September 20, 2017.  At the same time, he handed over the instrument of ratification. (Photo: Darren Ornitz/ICAN)Integral disarmament assumes that the long-term goal of abolishing nuclear weapons has to be part of a much larger cosmopolitan project of developing a global ethic of peace and solidarity that can ground a system of cooperative security. A realist approach that prioritizes a negative peace, defined largely in terms of military security and balance of power, is based on a mentality of fear and the false security of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are an impediment to the kind of cooperative security needed to build a positive peace based on a host of factors: socioeconomic development, political participation, respect for fundamental human rights, strong international norms and institutions, a spirit of dialogue, solidarity in international relations, as well as a change of hearts.9

Although the label would not seem to fit a tradition-bound Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See’s articulation of a moral judgment on nuclear use and deterrence, in the context of a wider vision of a radically transformed world based on conceptions of cooperative security and positive peace, makes the church what political scientists call a “norm entrepreneur.”

Nuclear Ban Strategy

As a norm entrepreneur embracing integral nuclear disarmament, it is not surprising that the Holy See was willing to join its religious-moral voice to the legal-political strategy to delegitimize the nuclear status quo and democratize the nuclear debate through the humanitarian impact conferences and the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

At the third of these conferences in Vienna in December 2014, Pope Francis issued a major letter accompanied by a study document, a lengthy moral and policy argument for nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, he included a strong appeal for progress on nuclear abolition in his September 2015 address to the UN General Assembly, his January 2017 World Day of Peace message, and his March 2017 letter to the UN conference negotiating the prohibition treaty. These papal interventions complemented a host of interventions by Vatican officials, especially during the ban treaty negotiations.

The nuclear weapons prohibition treaty takes a page from the landmine treaty’s “coalition of the willing” strategy. These norm entrepreneurs—non-nuclear-weapon states, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies, religious bodies, and nongovernmental organizations—have sought to reframe the nuclear debate, shifting the focus from national security to moral, legal, and humanitarian concerns. This reframing in normative terms reflects a strategic judgment that the current stalemate on nuclear disarmament could only be broken if new international mechanisms were found to stigmatize nuclear weapons and delegitimize the nuclear status quo.

The limitations of this strategy are obvious. It circumvented established processes, and its normative significance is in doubt given the opposition by nuclear-weapon states and most states under their nuclear umbrellas. While acknowledging these limitations, the Holy See, like others behind this strategy, concluded that it was a reasonable step in a complex and long-term process of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons. According to Pope Francis, the treaty “fill[s] a significant juridical lacuna, inasmuch as chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions.”10

This strategy helps break through the stalemate in bilateral and multilateral negotiations. It will not encourage forum shopping, but rather complements the NPT, CTBT, and other treaties. The Holy See has been quite critical of the morally untenable double standard in the NPT, which perpetuates an unjust, unequal, and dangerous nuclear status quo.11 The prohibition treaty reinforces this critique and helps pressure the nuclear-weapon states to abide by their disarmament obligations under NPT Article VI.

The Holy See’s contributions to the treaty negotiations reflect its priorities.12 First, it successfully pressed for incorporating moral language (“the ethical imperative for disarmament”) into the preamble against the legal positivists who sought to exclude it. Second, it supported language about the “waste of economic and human resources” on nuclear weapons. Third, citing the relevance of nuclear weapons to the global common good, it supported the need for creating a new international authority other than the over-stretched International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to administer and implement the treaty. Fourth, the Holy See supported mention of the moral responsibility of states that had used or tested nuclear weapons to assist with victim assistance and environmental remediation, but recommended a voluntary international fund so as not to stimulate further resistance from nuclear-weapon states. Fifth, the Holy See suggested deleting “any” with respect to the catastrophic consequences and legality of the use of nuclear weapons in order to acknowledge the variety of types of weapons and their potential uses. Finally, the Holy See made a half-dozen different proposals to place nuclear disarmament in the broader context of general disarmament and a positive peace, but succeeded only in including peace education alongside disarmament education.

This last point, about the importance of peace and disarmament education, reflects the Holy See’s conviction that the nuclear debate has to be democratized. According to Pope Francis, filling a legal gap was even more important than the treaty’s inclusiveness, the product of “a significant alliance between civil society, states, international organizations, churches, academies and groups of experts.”13

The humanitarian impact initiative and the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty process ensured that the normative concerns for the global common good expressed by the majority of states were not overridden, as they typically have been, by the national interests of the nuclear-weapon states. These processes also gave a greater voice to civil society, which will be so important in garnering public support for the ban treaty, especially in nuclear-weapon states.

Looking Ahead

The Holy See is in the unique position of being the world’s smallest nation-state and the world’s largest religious institution. Its role in the nuclear debate reflects the strengths and limitations of both roles. As a state, it is not surprising that its policy agenda is similar to that of other non-nuclear-weapon states, and that policy agenda is not likely to change significantly now that there is a prohibition treaty.

The Holy See will continue to routinely addresses issues before the IAEA, the Conference on Disarmament, and other international forums. It will continue to join other non-nuclear-weapon states in supporting full implementation of the NPT, including Article VI; a host of other arms control measures, such as the CTBT and a fissile material cutoff treaty; and stronger mechanisms for the IAEA to prevent proliferation, strengthen nuclear safeguards, and enforce arms control agreements.

The Holy See’s most important and distinctive contributions, however, will be less in policy advocacy and more in its ongoing efforts as a religious institution to help ensure that morality is not an uninvited guest at an exclusive party dominated by realists. Amid the irresponsible nuclear saber rattling of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin and the ambitious programs to develop smaller, smarter, and more usable nuclear weapons, the Holy See will continue to do its part to complement the prohibition treaty and strengthen the nuclear taboo against use with its clear moral condemnations.

The longer-term and less direct impact will be on deterrence and disarmament. The pope’s moral condemnation of deterrence, which echoes the legal prohibition in the treaty, should be of concern to nuclear-weapon states because the credibility of deterrence depends in part on the moral credibility of the threats involved. Nuclear policies, at least in democracies, cannot survive in the long term if major religious bodies and the general public lose faith in their ultimate moral legitimacy.

Religious appeals on the moral imperative of long-term efforts of nuclear disarmament are not new, but the narrative has changed over the past 20 years as moral, legal, and policy arguments for nuclear disarmament have gone mainstream, with the prohibition treaty being the most recent example. The Holy See is helping to provide the moral vision of a possibility that can scarcely be imagined now. But more is needed.

The credibility of that vision will depend on addressing two dimensions of an ethics gap. First is to elaborate on the pastoral implications of the pope’s prudential judgment that nuclear deterrence is no longer morally acceptable. If nuclear weapons are illegitimate but nuclear disarmament is not achievable in the near future, what is the moral responsibility of Catholic politicians, soldiers, and citizens in nuclear-weapon states who approve defense budgets, work in the nuclear military, and vote for those advocating a strong nuclear deterrent?

Second, the policy debate on nuclear disarmament is now ahead of the moral debate. Catholic scholars, policy specialists, and religious leaders need to collaborate in developing an ethic of nuclear disarmament that is as sophisticated as the ethic of nuclear use and deterrence developed during the Cold War.14 Many questions should be considered, such as what forms of deterrence would be morally acceptable and effective if the world moved to a minimal deterrent, with its tendency to revert to the counter-population targeting that the church has unequivocally condemned, or if the world actually abolished all nuclear weapons, making possession of illicit nuclear weapons even more valuable, more usable, and more destabilizing? Would a world without nuclear weapons require the development of an ethic of “disarmament intervention” akin to humanitarian intervention to deal with rogue states attempting a nuclear breakout?

Nuclear Weapons and the ‘Mentality of Fear’

The following is an excerpt from the address by Pope Francis on November 10, 2017, to participants in the international symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament,” held at the Vatican.

“In this symposium, you have met to discuss issues that are critical both in themselves and in the light of the complex political challenges of the current international scene, marked as it is by a climate of instability and conflict. A certain pessimism might make us think that “prospects for a world free from nuclear arms and for integral disarmament,” the theme of your meeting, appear increasingly remote. Indeed, the escalation of the arms race continues unabated; and the price of modernizing and developing weaponry, not only nuclear weapons, represents a considerable expense for nations. As a result, the real priorities facing our human family, such as the fight against poverty; the promotion of peace; the undertaking of educational, ecological, and health care projects; and the development of human rights, are relegated to second place.

Nor can we fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned, for they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race. International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity. Essential in this regard is the witness given by the hibakusha, the survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, together with other victims of nuclear arms testing. May their prophetic voice serve as a warning, above all for coming generations!

Furthermore, weapons that result in the destruction of the human race are senseless even from a tactical standpoint. For that matter, while true science is always at the service of humanity, in our time we are increasingly troubled by the misuse of certain projects originally conceived for a good cause. Suffice it to note that nuclear technologies are now spreading, also through digital communications, and that the instruments of international law have not prevented new states from joining those already in possession of nuclear weapons. The resulting scenarios are deeply disturbing if we consider the challenges of contemporary geopolitics, like terrorism or asymmetric warfare.

At the same time, a healthy realism continues to shine a light of hope on our unruly world. Recently, for example, in a historic vote at the United Nations, the majority of the members of the international community determined that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but must also be considered an illegal means of warfare. This decision filled a significant juridical lacuna, inasmuch as chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines, and cluster bombs are all expressly prohibited by international conventions.  Even more important is the fact that it was mainly the result of a “humanitarian initiative” sponsored by a significant alliance between civil society, states, international organizations, churches, academies, and groups of experts.

[P]rogress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression, contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals. The teaching of John XXIII remains ever valid. In pointing to the goal of an integral disarmament, he stated, “Unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or—and this is the main thing—ultimately to abolish them entirely.”

More moral clarity on these and other issues would reinforce and complement the legal arguments that must be marshalled for the prohibition treaty to gain broader adherence and for sustaining the decades-long process of negotiating and implementing a follow-on convention on nuclear disarmament.

If one of the goals and outcomes of the humanitarian initiative and the landmine ban treaty was to help democratize the nuclear debate, the challenge for the Catholic Church and other religious institutions and civil society actors is to revitalize engagement on an issue that has largely been ignored since the 1980s. As with anti-nuclear mobilization in the 1980s and the current Global Zero campaign, religious institutions will probably not be in the lead. Yet, they can use their vast institutional infrastructure of parishes, dioceses, schools, universities, religious orders, lay organizations, and media to mobilize and motivate around nuclear issues and give added weight to these initiatives.

That has been difficult to do for the past three decades as the nuclear issue moved to the margins of international affairs and understandably receded in the public consciousness. With the exception of the United States, Japan, and Scotland, even episcopal conferences have tended to leave the nuclear issue to the Holy See.

With the prohibition treaty and a return to nuclear tensions and massive modernization programs, some of the ingredients for new anti-nuclear mobilization are in place. The Vatican symposium, a convening of Catholic leaders from Europe and the United States in London in 2016,15 a joint statement by European and U.S. bishops’ conferences in 2017,16 and other developments suggest that the church is poised to re-engage in a significant way. It is not naïve to hope that, as it does so, it can have the kind of influence it had on President Ronald Reagan and his advisers.17 Catholic and other religious voices in Europe could also reinforce opposition to NATO’s current nuclear modernization programs.

The large, high-profile Vatican symposium showed that Pope Francis is moving the moral imperative of nuclear disarmament back to the center of the church’s international agenda. The challenge for the church is to close the ethics gap and strengthen its capacity to continue to inject morality into the nuclear debate and democratize that debate. As with other entrepreneurial endeavors, that will require a new generation of religious leaders, scholars, and professionals with the competence and interest to contribute to the policy and ethical debate on nuclear disarmament.

 

ENDNOTES

1. Pope Francis, Address to international symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament” (The Vatican, November 10, 2017), https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2017/november/documents/papa-francesco_20171110_convegno-disarmointegrale.html (hereinafter Vatican symposium).

2. “Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the General Assembly of the United Nations,” June 7, 1982, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/messages/pont_messages/1982/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19820607_disarmo-onu.html.

3. Pope Benedict XVI, “In Truth, Peace,” December 8, 2005, https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20051213_xxxix-world-day-peace.html.

4. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Lecture at the Woodstock Theological Institute at Georgetown University, March 16, 2010. For a summary of the talk, see Thomas Reese, “Vatican Questions Nuclear Deterrence,” May 12, 2010, http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/posts/vatican-questions-nuclear-deterrence.

5. Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition,” December 8, 2014, p. 4, www.fciv.org/downloads/Holy%20See%20Contribution-Vienna-8-DEC-2014.pdf (hereinafter study document).

6. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Statement at the High-Level Meeting of the 68th Session of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament, September 26, 2013, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/secretariat_state/2013/documents/rc-seg-st-20130926_mamberti-nuclear-disarmament_en.html.

7. Study document, p. 3.

8. Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963.

9. Pope Francis, Letter to president of UN conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, March 23, 2017, https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170323_messaggio-onu.html.

10. Vatican symposium.

11. Study document, pp. 8-9.

12. See Drew Christiansen, “The Vatican and the Ban Treaty,” Journal of Catholic Social Thought, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2018): 89-108.

13. Vatican symposium.

14. For a more detailed explanation of this gap, see Gerard F. Powers, “The Nuclear Ethics Gap: Finding Our Way on the Road to Disarmament,” America, May 17, 2010, p. 11.

15. The event was titled “Colloquium on Catholic Approaches to Nuclear Proliferation and Disarmament” and was held at the University of Notre Dame London Centre and the Millbank House on May 24-25, 2016. See Catholic Peacebuilding Network, “Colloquium on U.S.-European Approaches to Nuclear Disarmament,” n.d., https://cpn.nd.edu/news-events/past-events/london-2016/ (accessed April 8, 2018).

16. Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich and Bishop Oscar Cantú, “Nuclear Disarmament: Seeking Human Security,” Justitia et Pax Europa and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, July 6, 2017, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/war-and-peace/nuclear-weapons/nuclear-disarmament-seeking-human-security-2017-07-06.cfm.

17. Lawrence J. Korb, “The Vatican Tries to Reduce the Revived Global Threat of Nuclear War,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
December 13, 2017, https://thebulletin.org/vatican-tries-reduce-revived-global-threat-nuclear-war11346.


Gerard Powers is director of Catholic peacebuilding studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame. From 1987 to 2004, he was an adviser on nuclear issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Francis has made a judgment that the strict conditions for the moral acceptability of deterrence are not being met.

‘Denuclearization’ Poses Summit Challenge


May 2018
By Kelsey Davenport

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have agreed to negotiate “denuclearization” at their planned summit, but different expectations for what that means could complicate or even derail their talks.

Stepping back from the personal insults and threats of nuclear devastation hurled at one another just months ago, the two leaders have surprised the world with gestures to ease the way to what would be the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a leader of isolated, communist North Korea. Most notably, Kim announced on April 21 that North Korea will “discontinue” nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, close its nuclear test site, not transfer nuclear weapons and technology to other countries or groups, and refrain from using nuclear weapons unless threatened.

In a photo provided by the White House, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown shaking hands with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who secretly flew to Pyongyang during Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the anticipated summit meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump. (Photo: The White House via Getty Images)Those steps by the Kim regime, however welcome, fall short of what the United States has considered to be denuclearization. The Trump administration regards denuclearization as meaning North Korea “no longer having nuclear weapons that can be used in warfare against any of our allies,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on April 22.

Although administration officials have not been specific, they likely want Kim to dismantle his considerable nuclear weapons infrastructure, which includes warheads, delivery systems, production of fissile material, and weapons research laboratories that together have been a source of national pride and regime security. Measures to ensure that North Korea is not cheating would require elaborate verification provisions and monitoring by international inspectors.

For its part, Pyongyang views denuclearization as a two-sided process that includes U.S. nuclear weapons that are part of Washington’s core defense commitment to allies South Korea and Japan.

This definitional mismatch increases the likelihood that both sides are entering talks with unrealistic expectations.

The Trump national security team has not publicly detailed its approach, but past U.S. administrations have called for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear program to achieve the goal of a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons. This concept, known as CVID, was a principal U.S. demand during the multiparty negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program from 2003 to 2009, known as the six-party talks.

UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea similarly describe denuclearization. Dating back to 2006, when the council passed Resolution 1718 in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test, the body declared that North Korea “shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.”

CVID also has roots in the January 1992 South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which Pyongyang and Seoul agreed not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons” or to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” The U.S. decision to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons deployed in South Korea in 1991 helped pave the way for the joint declaration the following year.

For Pyongyang, reportedly, denuclearization must include the removal of U.S. nuclear and strategic assets from South Korea, a commitment not to deploy nuclear and strategic assets during military exercises, and a guarantee that the United States will not conduct a nuclear attack. It is not clear what if any inspections North Korea would insist on to verify the absence of nuclear weapons and strategic assets from the peninsula.

North Korea is also looking for other, related changes, including a peace treaty, lifting of international sanctions, and some form of guarantee against U.S. efforts for regime change.

North Korea’s nuclear-related conditions are less specific and onerous when compared to past instances when it has defined denuclearization. In July 2016, North Korea said that the “denuclearization being called for” applies to the “whole Korean peninsula and this includes the dismantlement of nukes in South Korea and its vicinity.” (See ACT, September 2016.)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) embrace after signing the Panmunjom Declaration during their Inter-Korean Summit on April 27 at the Peace House in Panmunjom, South Korea.  (Photo: Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)Specifically, North Korea called in 2016 for disclosure of any U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea, guarantees the United States will not redeploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, assurance it will not conduct a nuclear strike on North Korea, and withdrawal of U.S. troops authorized to use nuclear weapons. Although the United States does not deploy nuclear weapons in South Korea, South Korea and Japan are covered by the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent, and strategic assets are used in joint military drills.

Trump has claimed incorrectly that North Korea’s agreement to talk about denuclearization and its April 21 pledge constitutes an agreement to denuclearize. In response to the announcement, Trump tweeted that “we haven’t given up anything and they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, and no more testing!” Another tweet said that “only time will tell” if things will work out with Pyongyang.

North Korea has not made any public commitment to give up existing nuclear weapons, which Kim in his statement to ruling party officials called a “powerful treasured sword for defending peace.” North Korea is estimated to have assembled 10 to 20 nuclear warheads and to have the fissile material for an estimated 30 to 60 nuclear weapons, as well as advanced chemical and biological weapons programs.

Kim’s pledge is a new and positive commitment, but North Korea has hinted previously it would be willing to take such limited steps. In his new year’s address, Kim laid the groundwork for a suspension, stating that North Korea had completed its nuclear and missile programs.

How North Korea’s shorter-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missiles fit into the denuclearization negotiations is also an open question. Although the promised moratorium on testing intercontinental ballistic missiles may satisfy the United States, it is unlikely to be enough for regional allies, notably Japan, given that North Korea’s short- and medium-range missile systems put that country within range.

Japanese President Shinzo Abe, during an April 17 meeting with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, emphasized the importance of negotiations covering all missile systems, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, such as North Korea’s large stockpiles of chemical weapons.

According to an April 18 White House statement, Trump and Abe raised the bar for the negotiations, stating that North Korea “needs to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programs.”

Trump and Kim may have different views as to what precisely is up for negotiation.

Legislatures Act on Ban Treaty


May 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

A number of legislatures are taking steps for ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, while some other states, including two NATO members, are launching studies on the implications of ratifying the landmark treaty opposed by the major nuclear powers.

When the treaty opened for signature in September 2017, 50 states signed and three ratified the treaty. (See ACT, October 2017.) Since then, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela, as well as Palestine, have ratified the treaty, and eight other states have signed it.

Supporters of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) gathered February 5 in Sydney to urge the Australian and Japanese governments to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. (Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)Further, the treaty is being considered in other countries, such as Austria, where legislation supporting ratification passed the Austrian National Council on March 21 and the Austrian Federal Council on April 5, in both cases unanimously. Once Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has signed the legislation, and the country will soon submit its instrument of ratification.

Ireland is drafting treaty-implementation legislation, which could pass before the parliamentary recess in July. Campaigners in Ireland are advocating inclusion of the treaty’s prohibition of assistance with banned activities in the implementing legislation, which could mean limiting foreign investment in companies whose products or action contribute to nuclear arsenals.

Costa Rica’s legislative assembly voted unanimously March 15 for legislation in support of ratifying the treaty. Tim Wright, treaty coordinator at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), expects Costa Rica to ratify the treaty in the coming weeks. “We expect to see more ratifications from Latin America in the near future,” Wright told Arms Control Today in an April 17 interview.

Brazilian President Michel Temer is working to have Brazil ratify the treaty by the end of the year, Christian Vargas, deputy chief of mission at the Brazilian embassy in Washington, told the Arms Control Association annual meeting April 19.

In a February speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated she would pursue “early ratification” of the prohibition treaty. But an official in the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Arms Control Today in an April 18 email that no parliamentary process to do so had commenced.

The Marshall Islands, where there is strong domestic support for nuclear disarmament derived from the environmental and humanitarian impact of past U.S. nuclear testing there, has begun its legislative process on the treaty. A member of the Nitijela, the islands’ legislative body, submitted a resolution in September 2017 calling for the signature and ratification of the prohibition treaty. The resolution is currently in parliamentary committee.

The committee has held one public hearing, as of mid-March, but plans to hold more, said Bonnie Docherty, lecturer on law at Harvard Law School in an email to Arms Control Today. The committee aims to release its report to the Nitijela in August so that a vote on the resolution can take place before elections in November 2019.

Some officials are concerned about the compatibility of the treaty with the Marshall Islands’ 2003 Amended Compact of Free Association with the United States. The compact guarantees U.S. defense of the island nation in exchange for its promise not to take any action that the United States deems to be against its “responsibility for security and defense matters” in the Marshall Islands. (See ACT, September 2017.) Docherty contends that the two agreements are compatible.

In Switzerland, a member of parliament introduced a motion Dec. 12 requesting that the country sign the treaty “as soon as possible” and submit it to parliament for ratification “without delay.” A National Council vote, originally planned for March 15, had to be rescheduled and will likely occur during the summer session from May 28 to June 15, according to Maya Brehm, adviser to the group Article 36, in an email to Arms Control Today.

The Swiss government recommended Feb. 21 that the parliament reject the motion, citing a “need to clarify important technical, legal and political questions.” The government raised concerns that some treaty provisions “may not be verifiable or that the treaty could weaken existing standards, instruments or forums.” It also stated that it could not sign the treaty before completion of an interdepartmental analysis of the treaty, which is expected by July.

Other states are also launching studies into the implications of joining the treaty.

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in October 2017 that it would authorize such a review to be completed within a year. The Norwegian Parliament voted Feb. 8 to launch a similar study, although the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs opposes the accord.

“A process to achieve a ban on nuclear weapons that is not supported by any of the countries that actually have weapons of this kind will not, unfortunately, advance the disarmament agenda,” asserted Audun Halvorsen, state secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an April 18 email to Arms Control Today. The prohibition treaty “is not compatible with our NATO obligations. None of our NATO allies support the prohibition of nuclear weapons, and it is not appropriate for Norway to sign a treaty that could undermine NATO’s position as a defense alliance. However, the government is now following up parliament’s request to examine what the consequences of signing the [treaty] would be.”

The study’s conclusions will be available by the end of 2018, Halvorsen added.

Iceland, another NATO member, is also looking into the implications of joining the treaty, according to Wright. Iceland’s new prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who took office in November, is a member of the Left-Green movement and, although still a member of parliament, signed ICAN’s parliamentary pledge to work toward the treaty’s signature
and ratification.

An official in the prime minister’s office, in an email to Arms Control Today, did not comment on Jakobsdóttir’s current views on prohibition treaty ratification. The official underlined Iceland’s commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the country’s desire to see progress on nuclear weapons reductions.

“With Katrín Jakobsdóttir as prime minister, Iceland is in a strong position to join the treaty and lead other NATO countries to support real steps towards nuclear disarmament,” Ray Acheson, director of the group Reaching Critical Will, said in November 2017 after Jakobsdóttir attended a talk she and Wright gave in support of the treaty.

Advocates see support for the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty.

Trump's Threat To Violate The Iran Nuclear Deal And How To Respond

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Volume 10, Issue 5, April 30, 2018

President Donald Trump’s unrealistic demands that Congress and Washington’s European partners “fix” the effective 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran is setting the United States up to violate the deal, jeopardize its future, and undermine U.S. credibility and leverage in the region.

Despite the success of the nuclear deal in verifiably blocking Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear bomb, Trump has threatened not to renew U.S. sanctions waivers May 12, as required by the nuclear deal, if the E3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and Washington do not conclude a supplemental agreement designed to address what he terms are “flaws” in the accord.

Although E3 and U.S. negotiators have been meeting since Trump issued his ultimatum in January, it looks increasingly likely that Trump will choose not to renew sanctions waivers May 12, putting the United States in violation of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

While there has been progress in areas outside of the nuclear deal that Trump wants to address, such as on ballistic missiles, his demand that an agreement changing the so-called "sunsets"—those provisions of the deal that expire over time—has proven contentious and may prevent the E3 and the United States from finalizing an arrangement. Trump’s claim—that the deal paves the way to an Iranian nuclear weapon in 10 years—is based on a flawed analysis that discounts the value that the permanent monitoring mechanisms and prohibitions put in place by the deal have as a bulwark against nuclear weapons development.

Trump also disregards the fact that his solution, making permanent some of the limitations that expire in 10-25 years under the threat to reimposing sanctions, would violate the accord. Congress and the E3 have rightly resisted agreeing to make demands that would abrogate, or otherwise recast, the terms of the JCPOA. These fundamental differences make an arrangement between the E3 and the United States that addresses Trump’s areas of concerns without violating the agreement difficult to negotiate.

Additionally, given Trump’s record of hostility toward the accord, his campaign pledge to tear up the deal, and his unpredictability, there is no guarantee that even if an agreement on a supplemental arrangement is reached, Trump will accept it or abide by it.

After meeting with Trump and floating the idea of a new agreement that keeps the 2015 nuclear deal in place and, in separate arrangements, addresses regional issues, ballistic missiles, and options for how to address Iran’s nuclear program after the deal expires, French President Emmanuel Macron predicted April 26 that Trump “will get rid of this deal on his own, for domestic reasons.”

While it behooves the E3 to continue pursuing negotiations with the Trump administration on an arrangement that satisfies Trump without violating the deal, the E3, Russia, China, Iran, and the U.S. Congress should now prepare to pursue “plan B”–implementation of the JCPOA without the United States. That must include denouncing Trump’s failure to renew sanctions for what is a clear violation of the deal —and taking steps to sustain the nuclear accord.

For as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated in October, the nuclear agreement is multilateral and it is “not up to a single country to terminate it.”

A Clear Violation of the Deal

Reimposing sanctions 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 recognize it as such. Not only did the United States commit not to reimpose sanctions, Washington also committed not to interfere with the full realization of sanctions relief.

To the first point, Paragraph 26 of the JCPOA clearly states that the United States “acting consistent with the respective roles of the president and Congress, will refrain from reintroducing or reimposing the sanction specified in Annex II that it has ceased applying under this JCPOA.”

Reimposing sanctions lifted by the deal, particularly when even top U.S. officials and critics of the deal admit that Iran is in compliance with its commitments, clearly abrogates U.S. commitments under this paragraph.

Additionally, the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, given the extraterritorial nature of the measures, will interfere with foreign companies and banks conducting legitimate business with Iran that is permitted by the JCPOA.That would directly inhibit Iran from realizing the benefits of sanctions relief.

For instance, the United States also committed in Paragraph 26 to “make best efforts in good faith… to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting.” In paragraph 28, the United States committed to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”

Even if the administration claims that it is not implementing the sanctions and therefore not violating the deal, failing to renew the waivers will make certain transactions with Iran illegal. Additionally, entities are not going to wait for the Trump administration to start implementing the measures to take actions to comply with the restrictions and avoid being penalized by the United States. The risk of sanctions penalties alone will result in a certain amount of self-enforcement, particularly for the sanctions measures that are due to be renewed May 12.

The Impact of Reimposing Oil Measures

The sanctions that will be reimposed May 12 if Trump does not renew waivers come from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012. The sanctions in the NDAA require states purchasing oil from Iran to make significant reductions in imports every 180 days or risk being sanctioned. While “significant reduction” was not defined in the legislation and it is unclear what standard the Trump administration will use, it was understood by the Obama administration to mean an 18 percent decrease in the total price paid for oil purchases every 180 days. If the sanctions are reimposed, compliance would be assessed Nov. 8, 2018. Failure to meet the “significant reduction” standard would result in sanctions on the foreign banks that process the transactions.

Key U.S. allies will be affected if this measure is snapped back. Right now the top five purchasers of Iranian oil include China, Japan, South Korea, India, and the European Union. Some of these states have already begun reducing purchases of Iranian oil in anticipation of the reimposition. South Korea’s purchases of Iranian oil products were down 40 percent in March 2018, when compared to prior year, although that is partially due to a decrease in the supply of certain oil products.

Reimposing these measures will also have a negative impact on support in Iran to maintain the deal, given the central role that oil sales play in Iran’s economy. The increase in oil sales after the JCPOA was implemented constitutes a significant portion of the sanctions relief Iran has experienced under the JCPOA.

In addition to higher sales since the agreement was implemented in 2016, Iran’s production of oil has also rebounded to 4 million barrels per day, up from the approximately 2.6 million barrels per day during the period from 2012-2016 when the EU oil embargo and the U.S. sanctions from the 2012 NDAA were in place. Crude oil sales are up from 1.1 million barrels per day during the negotiations from 2013-2015, when further reductions were capped, to about 2.5 million barrels per day.

Options for Congress

If Trump fails to renew the sanctions waivers, it is critical that members of Congress immediately denounce his action as a clear violation of the nuclear deal and call upon Washington’s partners in the agreement to sustain the accord.

Failure to call out Trump for violating the deal could be interpreted as an implicit endorsement of his approach and, more broadly, a rejection of multilateral efforts to address issues of proliferation concern. For this reason, it is also critical that members of Congress call on the remaining P5+1 to continue to implement the nuclear deal with Iran.

At a time when the overarching nonproliferation and disarmament architecture is under considerable stress, the nuclear deal with Iran was widely viewed in the international community as a nonproliferation success that averted a nuclear crisis and brought Iran back into compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Now, with the deal under threat from Trump, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, opened the door to Iranian withdraw from the NPT in response to a U.S. violation of the JCPOA, an action which would have grave consequences for the treaty and remove the binding legal prohibition on developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. Such an action would not only undermine international security, but it would severely undermine Iran’s own security and standing.

Demonstrating that Trump’s extreme view is outside of the mainstream and the deal still has support from policymakers in the United States may help persuade Tehran from making such a drastic move in response to the U.S. violation.

Members of Congress would also be right to point out that Trump will be responsible for the consequences if the U.S. violation ultimately causes the deal to collapse and the damage that would be done to U.S. credibility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported Iran’s compliance with the accord in 10 consecutive reports and Trump’s own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a critic of the Iran deal, testified to Congress that there is no evidence of Iranian noncompliance with the accord, there is no legitimate reason for Trump to violate the agreement. Given Iran’s full implementation of the JCPOA, a decision by Trump to violate the accord and risk the future of the nuclear deal should be denounced by responsible members of Congress.

EU Measures to Sustain the Deal

Washington’s P5+1 partners, particularly the EU, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have committed to the continued implementation of the JCPOA, irrespective of U.S. actions. To sustain the deal, however, the E3 and the EU must do more than just denounce U.S. actions as a violation and detrimental to the future of the nuclear deal.

The EU can, and should, take actions to block the application of U.S. secondary sanctions and seek to assure Iran that the rest of the P5+1 remain committed to Iran realizing sanctions relief under the deal.

The EU has experience responding to U.S. extraterritorial sanctions. In the 1990s, the EU issued blocking regulation to protect its banks and businesses from U.S. sanctions targeting Cuba by instructing the entities not to comply with U.S. sanctions. In that case, the EU had an assurance from the United States that Washington would not target EU businesses for violating the sanctions.

While a handshake agreement that the United States will not seek to penalize EU businesses in the Iran case is highly unlikely, the EU should still pursue the blocking regulation. The blocking regulation probably will not provide enough guarantee that banks and businesses will be shielded from U.S. sanctions that business with Iran will continue–the penalty of being cut off from the U.S. financial system is likely too high a risk—but it will send an important political signal to Iran that the EU supports the deal. Equally important, it sends a message to the United States the decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran is unacceptable and the EU will not be pressured into abiding by U.S. measures.

The EU could also consider setting up channels to facilitate business transactions with Iran that do not rely on the U.S. dollar. Isolating such transactions from the U.S. financial system could provide an avenue for doing business with Iran and demonstrate to Tehran that the EU is still serious about implementing the deal.

These actions will be critical to try and continue sanctions relief. Failure to do so might push Iran to resume troublesome nuclear activities halted by the JCPOA, such as enrichment to 20-percent uranium-235, an activity currently prohibited by the deal until 2031.

As Zarif told CBS April 22, if “benefits of the deal for Iran start to diminish, then there is no reason for Iran to remain in the deal.”

The EU also has other channels for supporting the JCPOA. One often overlooked benefit of the nuclear deal is the technical cooperation for nuclear research and assistance in advancing nuclear safety and security. The EU and Iran have conducted several meetings to date and the results over some clear benefits to Iran. Pledging to continue to help Iran realize the full benefit of Annex III of the JCPOA is another way the EU can show its commitment to the deal.

Russia and China have also indicated support for sustaining the JCPOA and denounced Trump’s threats to the deal. At a meeting on the NPT in Geneva, Russia and China circulated a statement affirming their "unwavering support for the comprehensive and effective implementation" of the deal and invited all states present to sign on to the agreement. The Russian envoy to the meeting called upon states “not to remain silent in hopes that this situation will somehow blow over by itself but rather to take serious steps to preserve the JCPOA.”

Washington’s P5+1 partners should also use the dispute resolution mechanism set up by the JCPOA to present a united front in the face of the U.S. violation or support Iran if Tehran chooses this path. While the dispute resolution might push the E3 and the EU into the unattractive position of siding with Russia and China against the United States, it would send a strong signal to the Trump administration that the United States is isolated in its rejection of the deal.

Beyond the P5+1

The world is looking to the E3 to save the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran–but it is not just the responsibility of the other P5+1 states to avert the nonproliferation crisis that would follow if Trump reimposes sanctions. States beyond the P5+1 have an obligation to contribute to efforts to sustain the deal and uphold nonproliferation norms.

The UN Security Council endorsed the JCPOA in a 2015 resolution that “calls upon all Member States” to “take such actions as may be appropriate to support the implementation of the JCPOA” and “refraining from actions that undermine the implementation of commitments” under the deal. The preamble of the Resolution 2231 also emphasizes the importance of a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue “would benefit nuclear-nonproliferation.” The Security Council resolution statements may be nonbinding, but they underscore the global importance of the deal for nonproliferation and the responsibility that all UN member states have toward supporting the agreement.

States like South Korea, Japan, and India also have a stake in the economic consequences of any U.S. decision to violate the deal and reimpose sanctions. Not only would they be subject to restrictions on oil purchases from Iran, but banks and entities in these countries engaged in legitimate trade with Iran risk penalties if they do not cut ties with Tehran.

Like the EU, these states may think about what measures they can take to shield businesses and entities from U.S. sanctions. Pursuing strategies similar to the EU blocking regulation would send a strong signal of support for the Iran deal and demonstrate to Washington that there are consequences for blatantly disregarding multilateral accords.

Conclusion

If Trump fails to renew sanctions waivers May 12 it will be a clear violation of the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. Withholding waivers would be irresponsible, dangerous, and risk a nuclear agreement that is verifiably restricting Iran’s nuclear activities. Trump’s action may not cause the deal collapse, but it certainly jeopardizes the future of the JCPOA and isolates the United States from key allies.

It is critical that members of Congress, Washington P5+1 partners, and the broader international community denounce Trump for violating the agreement if he fails to renew the sanctions waivers. Collapse of the agreement would have international consequences. Defending the JCPOA must be a global responsibility.—KELSEY DAVENPORT, director for nonproliferation policy

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High-Level Group Calls for Extension of New START Agreement

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

For Immediate Release: April 18, 2018

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

(Washington, Hamburg, Moscow)—With relations between Washington, Moscow, and Europe at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, a distinguished, high-level group is warning that urgent steps need to be taken to contain nuclear risks and tensions and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the group notes that: “Existing nuclear arms control agreements are at risk, and both sides are pursuing costly programs to replace and upgrade their Cold War-era strategic nuclear arsenals, each of which exceeds reasonable deterrence requirements. A compliance dispute threatens the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire in 2021 unless extended.”

Among the signatories to the statement are: Des Browne, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom, Richard R. Burt, former U.S. negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; Tom  Countryman, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Arms Control Association; retired Major General Dvorkin, a chief researcher at the Center for International Security at the Institute of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations; Gen. Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff and Vice Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces; Volker Rühe, former Minister of Defense, Germany; Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, former Chairman, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The statement was organized by the members of a 21-member German-Russian-U.S. Deep Cuts Commission, which was established in 2013 to develop proposals to overcome obstacles to sensible arms control agreements and further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

Last week at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Robert Soofer announced that the administration will soon “begin a whole-of-government review of the pros and cons of extending the [New START] treaty.”
 
“Without a positive decision to extend New START, and if the INF Treaty comes to an end, there would be no legally-binding limits on the world’s two largest nuclear superpowers for the first time since 1972, and the risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition would grow,” the statement warns.

“Presidents Trump and Putin … should discuss and pursue—on a priority basis—effective steps to reduce nuclear risks and tensions, and to avoid a renewed nuclear arms race,” they write.

Their recommendations include:

  • Immediate Extension of New START Treaty. This treaty imposes important bounds on the strategic nuclear competition between the two nuclear superpowers. The treaty will by its terms expire February 5, 2021, but can be extended by up to five years by agreement by the two sides. Extending the treaty until February 2026 would preserve its significant security advantages—both the limits and the transparency that is provided by the treaty’s verification measures.
  • Intensified Efforts to Resolve INF Treaty Compliance Questions. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces 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. Unfortunately, the treaty is now at risk, with the United States and Russia exchanging charges of treaty violations, and the U.S. government stating that it will not allow Russia to gain a military advantage through its violation. Currently, no meetings are scheduled to address the issue. A resolution of the dispute requires high-level leadership from the White House and the Kremlin.
  • Maintaining a Regular Dialogue on Strategic Stability. U.S. and Russian officials held a round of strategic stability talks in September 2017 but they postponed a follow-up round that was to be held earlier this year. They should make that dialogue a continuing and regular part of the U.S.-Russian agenda.
  • Sustained Military-to-Military Dialogue on Key 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. U.S. and Russian forces also operate in close proximity in Syria. The risk of accidents and miscalculations that could escalate to a full-fledged armed conflict is growing.

The full statement is available online in English and in Russian.

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U.S., European, and Russian Nuclear Experts & Former Officials Issue Urgent Call for Trump and Putin to Take Steps to Avoid a New Nuclear Arms Race

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The Risks of Nuclear Cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Role of Congress

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Volume 10, Issue 4, April 5, 2018

Curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and the technologies to make them has long been and remains strongly in the U.S. national security interest, especially in the troubled Middle East.

As President Donald Trump decides in the coming weeks whether to continue implementing the successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal, lawmakers could soon be asked to consider a lower-profile, but nonetheless hugely consequential, agreement which would provide for civilian nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an interagency delegation to London in late February to discuss a pact, known as a 123 agreement, with a Saudi delegation led by Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Bin Abdulaziz al-Falih. A 123 agreement, named after a section of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, sets the terms for sharing U.S. peaceful nuclear energy technology, equipment, and materials with other countries.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry (L) and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih (R) shake hands after a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding on carbon management, on December 4, 2017 in Riyadh. (Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

 

The Trump administration has not commented on the status of the talks and no agreement was announced during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Washington the week of March 19.

Though Saudi Arabia says that it is seeking nuclear power for peaceful purposes to diversify its sources of energy, recent statements by the Saudi leadership have cast doubt on the kingdom’s commitment to its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) not to acquire nuclear weapons.

In a bombshell interview with CBS News March 15 bin Salman warned: “Without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” The Saudi government has also made it clear that it seeks to make its own nuclear fuel.

Engaging in nuclear cooperation with a country that has threatened to leave the NPT carries significant risks. The Trump administration should insist on nonproliferation safeguards that go beyond those required by existing U.S. law, including a Saudi commitment not to engage in uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing activities. These activities are considered sensitive because they can be used to make fuel for nuclear power reactors and for nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the administration’s interest in revitalizing the U.S. nuclear industry, disdain for the Iran deal, and desire to strengthen the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia casts doubt on whether it will use the significant leverage it has over the kingdom to push for adequately strong safeguards. If Trump walks away from the Iran deal–as seems increasingly likely–and strikes a pact with Saudi Arabia that does not include a Saudi pledge not to enrich or reprocess, the prospects for a dangerous and destabilizing nuclear fuel-making race in the Middle East will greatly increase.

Fortunately, bipartisan opposition in Congress to an agreement that does not block Saudi fuel-making appears to be mounting. Lawmakers should closely scrutinize any agreement with Saudi Arabia to ensure that it contains adequate safeguards. And if it does not, Congress should use its authority to put conditions on the agreement to ensure it does not leave the door open to further proliferation of nuclear fuel-making technologies in the Middle East.

In addition, as Congress reviews the agreement and prepares to consider potentially other agreements in the near future, Congress should strengthen the nonproliferation standards and procedures for congressional review of 123 agreements.

123 Agreements and U.S. Nonproliferation Policy
The United States has appropriately sought to deny the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not already possess them through several avenues, including the terms of nuclear cooperation agreements.

After the Indian nuclear test explosion in 1974, Congress amended the Atomic Energy Act in 1978 to mandate that nuclear cooperation agreements include tougher bulwarks to prevent U.S. nuclear assistance from being diverted to military uses. The amendment put in place nine provisions, including the requirement that recipients of U.S. civil nuclear cooperation have in place full-scope international safeguards and may not conduct activities such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing unless Washington first consents. The Atomic Energy Act has not been updated since 1978.

In recent years Washington has urged states seeking nuclear cooperation with the United States to agree to a legally-binding commitment to forswear the pursuit of enrichment and reprocessing as a complement to other U.S. efforts to prevent the spread of these technologies. 

This so-called “Gold Standard” was enshrined in a 2009 agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the renewal in 2014 of a pact with Taiwan. Three of the past four 123 agreements that the United States has negotiated not involving a nuclear-armed state have included either a legally or politically binding commitment not to enrich or reprocess.

In addition to the UAE, the United States has negotiated several nuclear cooperation agreements with other partners in the Middle East, including Morocco (1980) and Egypt (1981). The agreements with Morocco and Egypt expire in 2022 and 2021, respectively.

Over the past decade, the United States has also conducted discussions on cooperation with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But these discussions have not resulted in agreements, in large part due to the unwillingness of either country to forswear enrichment and reprocessing.

Saudi Arabia’s Interest in Nuclear Power
Saudi Arabia has ambitious plans for nuclear power. The kingdom says it wants to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. Many observers believe Riyadh will be hard pressed to build even half that many. The kingdom has solicited bids for the first two reactors and hopes to sign contracts by the end of this year.

The Trump administration has pledged to revitalize the U.S. nuclear industry and sees in Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions a major commercial opportunity. The administration is currently conducting a review of U.S. policy toward civil nuclear power.

Riyadh claims that the primary motivation for its pursuit of nuclear power is to help meet the country’s rising demand for electricity and conserve its oil resources for export. However, it is questionable whether Saudi Arabia needs nuclear power to meet these objectives. According to several analyses commissioned by the Nuclear Policy Education Center, development of the kingdom’s natural gas resources and investment in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would be safer and more economically rational alternatives.

Until recently, Saudi Arabia’s official position had been that it would choose not to enrich or reprocess. The kingdom has no near-term practical need for these capabilities and they would be more expensive than relying on the open market for enrichment services. In a May 2008 U.S.-Saudi memorandum of understanding on nuclear energy cooperation, Saudi Arabia declared “its intention to rely on international markets for nuclear fuel and to not pursue sensitive nuclear technologies, which stands in direct contrast to the actions of Iran.”

The Saudi government, however, would not agree to forgo fuel cycle capabilities in negotiations with the Obama administration and is now stating publicly that it intends to acquire them (though on what timeline is uncertain). In an interview with Reuters in March 2018, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Bin Abdulaziz al-Falih stated: “It’s not natural for us to bring enriched uranium from a foreign country to fuel our reactors.” Al-Falih also said he hopes Washington will “help us with the fuel cycle,” suggesting that Riyadh may be seeking Washington’s blessing and active assistance to enrich or reprocess.

In reality, relying on the international market is what most states with nuclear reactors do to fuel them. How Saudi Arabia would acquire fuel-making technology is unclear and there would be significant obstacles. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 48 supplier countries who implement export guidelines to try to prevent peaceful nuclear trade from contributing to nuclear proliferation, adopted new guidelines in June 2011 that strongly discourage the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology. For its part, the United States does not transfer this technology to anybody. Riyadh could seek to acquire it from Pakistan or North Korea, neither of which are members of the NSG. But this would present its own problems.

Ultimately, Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of nuclear power and interest in enrichment appears motivated primarily by its security competition with Iran, which has violently manifested itself in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Riyadh also believes the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is highly problematic, both because it limits and does not eliminate Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity and, in Riyadh’s view, enhances Iran’s position in the region.

Recent statements from the country’s leadership suggest the kingdom wants to keep open the option to acquire nuclear weapons under the cover of a NPT-compliant civilian nuclear power program. Disturbingly, neither Trump nor any member of his administration has publicly condemned Bin Salman’s threat to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does. It has long been U.S. policy to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, including to U.S. allies and partners. The administration’s silence is even more worrisome in light of statements from Trump during the 2016 election campaign that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by U.S. allies such as South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia is “going to happen anyway.”

The Case for Stringent Nonproliferation Conditions
The likelihood that Saudi Arabia will actually decide to engage in enrichment and/or reprocessing–to say nothing about acquiring nuclear weapons–is unknown but would face significant hurdles. Saudi statements could be designed to deter Iran and/or elicit greater protection from the United States.

Developing the capability to produce nuclear fuel is time-consuming, technically challenging, expensive, and, in a region as volatile as the Middle East, potentially threatening to one’s neighbors. Indeed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told Trump in a March 5 meeting at the White House that the United States should insist on a Saudi commitment not to enrich and reprocess.

Most importantly, Saudi acquisition of the capability to make the key explosive ingredients of nuclear weapons runs a high risk of undermining the kingdom’s alliance with the United States. There is no other country–or technology–that Riyadh’s leaders can turn to that can provide the same level of proven support and protection.

But Saudi Arabia’s increasingly unabashed nuclear hedging is a threat to the nonproliferation regime that the United States has led for decades. To be consistent with the U.S. historical record of seeking to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, the Trump administration should seek safeguards in any 123 agreement that go beyond the existing nine nonproliferation conditions required by the Atomic Energy Act.

As Harvard University Senior Fellow and former Bush administration official Will Tobey testified to Congress last month, “the United States has never before contemplated, let alone concluded, a nuclear cooperation agreement with a state that is threatening even provisionally to leave the [nuclear] nonproliferation treaty.”

At a bare minimum, the United States should insist that Saudi Arabia sign and ratify the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which allows for expanded agency access to information, sites, and materials to guard against diversion for illicit activities. No non-nuclear country has ever built nuclear weapons under the Additional Protocol.

Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries that has yet to adopt the Additional Protocol (Iran has signed and is provisionally implementing it). Washington has not in recent years negotiated a 123 agreement with a state that had not signed up to the measure.

The United States should also seek a prolonged, legally-binding Saudi commitment not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing that does not sunset for the duration of the agreement. The absence of a ban on them would depart from the policy pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations and open the door for the kingdom to pursue fuel cycle capabilities without U.S. approval if it uses technology or materials provided by other suppliers. A typical 123 agreement requires that the U.S. consent to any request to enrich or reprocess U.S.-origin materials or fuel.

In addition, an agreement that does not include the “Gold Standard” could lead the UAE to invoke a provision in its 123 agreement that allows for amending the agreement if Washington strikes a more “favorable” 123 pact with another Middle East country. Egypt’s 123 agreement, which is up for renewal in 2021, contains a similar provision.

Whether the Trump administration is insisting on these safeguards in discussions with the Saudis is unknown. It has not yet briefed Congress on the talks since they formally began.

In testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 22, Perry suggested that the Saudis should adhere to the Additional Protocol. But he refused to say whether the United States is pushing for a prohibition on fuel-making or would consent to or assist in the development of a Saudi fuel-making program. (A permissive agreement that facilitates Saudi fuel-making would exacerbate the negative consequences described above.)

Critics of insisting on tougher nonproliferation standards in an agreement with Saudi Arabia, particularly restrictions on fuel cycle technologies, argue that the United States lacks leverage to convince Riyadh to accept these terms. They also argue that such terms could prompt Saudi Arabia to engage in cooperation with countries, such as Russia and China, that would demand less stringent nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear safety provisions than those contained in the Atomic Energy Act.

These arguments are unconvincing for several reasons.

First, the administration has significant leverage in this case. While the U.S. nuclear industry no longer holds the preeminent supply position that it once did, countries still value the imprimatur of legitimacy for their nuclear efforts that comes with a 123 agreement. More importantly, Saudi Arabia relies heavily on the United States for military and economic support and president Trump is pursuing an expansion of cooperation with Riyadh in these areas. Given the dangerous downsides of the proliferation of nuclear fuel-making in the Middle East, the administration should attempt to use the influence this assistance provides.

Second, 123 agreements set the conditions for nuclear trade, but they are not contracts and do not automatically result in commerce. Even if Washington strikes a deal with Riyadh, there is no guarantee the kingdom will choose U.S. vendors. Regardless, as Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski of the Nuclear Policy Education Center note, Russia and China may not be appealing partners for Riyadh. U.S. nuclear technology has a better record of safety and reliability than what Russia and China have available for export. Meanwhile, Russia is the top supplier of nuclear reactors to Riyadh’s archenemy Iran.

South Korea, which is building four of its APR 1400 reactors in the UAE, is likely to be the most desirable vendor for Saudi Arabia. But given the reliance of this reactor on U.S. technology, exporting it to the kingdom could require a Saudi 123 agreement with Washington. This provides the Trump administration with another significant point of leverage.

Flawed Comparisons to the Iran Deal
Opponents of the 2015 agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear program claim that it undermines efforts to impose restrictions on Saudi enrichment and reprocessing since the Iran deal does not prohibit Iranian uranium enrichment activities.

This too is a deeply flawed—and dangerous—argument. The Iran deal, which is not an agreement for nuclear cooperation, severely and verifiably restricts Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, does not yet have fuel cycle capabilities and does not need them to produce nuclear energy.

The deal also requires—in perpetuity—stringent monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program under the Additional Protocol, which the Saudis have not yet signed.

During the early years of the Bush administration when Iran’s nuclear program was much smaller, pursuing a deal that eliminated Iran’s uranium-enrichment program may have been feasible. But by 2013 when the Obama administration began negotiating with Iran, such an outcome was not possible.

Obama administration officials also clearly stated that acknowledging Iran’s uranium enrichment program did not change longstanding U.S. policy that there is no “right to enrich” under the NPT as claimed by some states or alter U.S. opposition to the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology.

It is clear that Saudi Arabia is concerned that the Iran deal leaves Tehran with too much nuclear capacity, especially after certain limitations on enrichment and fuel cycle activities begin to expire in the mid-2020s. Even more concerning from Saudi Arabia’s perspective is Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region. Bin Salman stated in a recent interview that Iran’s leadership “makes Hitler look good.”

These anxieties will need to be responsibly managed and addressed. But instead of walking away from the Iran deal, the Trump administration should continue to vigorously implement and enforce it. If Trump kills the deal, Iran could respond by resuming nuclear activities limited by the agreement. This would greatly increase the odds that Saudi Arabia will choose to quickly follow a similar path, and perhaps the UAE, Egypt, and other regional states as well. Attempting to counter Iran by facilitating Saudi fuel-making is also unwise. A cascade of fuel making in the Middle East would have profoundly negative consequences for regional security and the nonproliferation regime. The Iran case demonstrates the crisis that can ensue when a state takes steps toward nuclear weapons while maintaining that its program is entirely peaceful. 

Additionally, to address legitimate concerns about the future of Iran’s nuclear program after certain restrictions expire, the administration should pursue opportunities to build on the agreement in ways that strengthens nonproliferation in Iran and regionally and reduces Iran's incentives to expand its enrichment program.

Strengthening Congressional oversight
A growing number of lawmakers are justifiably raising concerns about a potential 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia that does not block the kingdom from engaging in fuel-making.

“The idea of Saudi Arabia having a nuclear program with the ability to enrich is a major national security concern,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said at a March 21 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the implications of civilian nuclear cooperation with Riyadh. “Unfortunately from the little we do know from the administration it is looking at this deal in terms of economics and in terms of commerce and national security implications only register as a minor issue–if at all.”

Similarly, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Perry at the March 22 hearing that he “and many others” would oppose a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia that does not include a fuel-making ban.

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.

If the Trump administration presents lawmakers with a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia that does not contain adequate nonproliferation safeguards, Congress, which has the right to vote on the final agreement, should condition its approval on the adoption of several requirements. Options include:

  • a provision that would automatically terminate the agreement if it is ever determined that Saudi Arabia has sought or has acquired enrichment and reprocessing technologies, for any reason;
  • an annual certification from the president that Saudi Arabia is not seeking, nor has any nuclear technology supplier discussed the transfer of, enrichment and reprocessing technologies to the Saudis;
  • a provision that Congress must approve as an amendment to the agreement any decision by the United States to provide consent to Saudi enrichment and reprocessing; and
  • a commitment from the Trump administration that the United States will use all available means to encourage other members of the NSG to refrain from transferring sensitive fuel cycle technology to any state that does not already possess such technology.

In addition, it is also past time that Congress pursued revisions to the Atomic Energy Act procedures for Congressional review of 123 agreements.

On March 21, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced HR 5357, the Nuclear Cooperation Reform Act of 2018. The bill, which mirrors legislation unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2011, would add new requirements to the nine conditions already in Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act that, if met, would be subject to the same Congressional “fast track” approval process as current law.

Agreements with states that cannot meet the higher set of standards would be subject to a more rigorous process requiring affirmative Congressional approval. Among the new requirements for “fast track” approval would be:

  • the application of the Additional Protocol; and
  • a pledge from countries that do not already possess enrichment and reprocessing capabilities not to acquire these capabilities and/or facilities to conduct them.

A common argument in opposition to earlier versions of the legislation was that by requiring more stringent standards, it would deny NPT members their rights under the treaty.

But asking that states forego enrichment and reprocessing is not about denying rights; it is about asking countries not to exercise rights in the context of a bilateral cooperation agreement with the United States.

In any event, under the bill, Congress could still pass agreements without a fuel-making ban. Such agreements would simply require a higher bar for approval than those containing a ban. This would provide powerful leverage to the executive branch negotiating team in its discussions with the Saudis and future talks with other potential partners.

Another argument is that by requiring tougher standards, other countries will not agree to nuclear cooperation with the United States and instead turn to other suppliers for nuclear trade.

Similar arguments were made at the time Congress was considering the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act via the 1978 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, and they were found to be wanting by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and others. The modifications to existing law proposed in the Ros-Lehtinen and Sherman legislation are less stringent than those enacted in 1978 and these amendments did not inhibit the United States from successfully renegotiating most of the existing 123 agreements at that time.

In light of the growing interest in nuclear power in geopolitically sensitive regions of the globe; the inclusion of the "Gold Standard" in the UAE and Taiwan agreements; and the new NSG rules adopted in 2011, it is prudent to update the Atomic Energy Act to better address the proliferation risks of today-and tomorrow.—KINGSTON REIF, with DARYL G. KIMBALL and KELSEY DAVENPORT

Description: 

As President Trump decides whether to continue implementing the successful 2015 Iran nuclear deal, lawmakers could soon be asked to consider a consequential agreement on nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

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Diplomats Urge Unity Ahead of NPT Meeting


April 2018
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

Representatives to the second preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference will seek to focus on shared goals in the face of daunting obstacles to a successful outcome.

Adam Bugajski, Poland’s permanent representative to the UN Office and international organizations in Vienna, will chair the meeting, which is scheduled to be held April 23-May 4 in Geneva. Bugajski previously served as security policy director at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Poland’s deputy permanent representative to NATO.

Participants at the first preparatory committee meeting for the 2020 review conference for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May 2017 in Vienna. (Photo: United Nations Information Service Vienna / Agata Wozniak)As chair of the conference, Bugajski said he intends to stress that “there is no single road toward disarmament and that disarmament is not only about reductions.”

Bugajski began consulting with member states and civil society representatives shortly after the first preparatory committee meeting in May 2017, he told Arms Control Today in a March 14 email. The consultations included regional seminars in Mexico City, Addis Ababa, and Jakarta and regional group consultations in Geneva, Vienna, and New York. Bugajski also established a task force for the conference at the Polish Foreign Ministry.

Other representatives highlighted the need for practical steps to uphold the NPT regime ahead of its 50th anniversary in 2020 and in light of mounting challenges.

“Our main objective is really quite straightforward, and one hopefully shared by the vast majority of NPT members,” Carl Magnus Eriksson, director and deputy head of the Department for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Arms Control Today in a March 12 email. “It is to demonstrate the continued vitality and indispensable role of the NPT framework despite many challenging circumstances.”

Jamie Walsh, Ireland’s deputy director for disarmament and nonproliferation, said in a March 16 email to Arms Control Today, “In order to remain relevant and effective it is critical that the treaty, which has long been at the center of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, doesn’t become stagnant. Simply reiterating commitments is not enough; there must be momentum and progress.”

Diplomats cited a number of challenges that could inhibit progress at the meeting, including a lack of trust among member states, the global security environment, and North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programs.

Given these challenges, several disarmament representatives encouraged member states to concentrate on areas of common interest.

Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, chided those pursuing “unrealistic agendas that cannot gain consensus” in a March 26 email to Arms Control Today. The United States will continue to remind states that “that disarmament efforts cannot be divorced from the broader international security environment,” he wrote.

Eriksson suggested focusing on “practical measures to reduce risks, enhance transparency and build confidence.” Other officials echoed the need for practical measures. Both Nobushige Takamizawa, Japanese permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), and an official in the German foreign ministry, who commented on a nonattribution basis, recommended member states include a focus on implementing previously agreed steps, including the 2010 action plan.

States are already considering how to bridge divides, such as the advancement of disarmament, which could threaten conference unity. The committee will be the first gathering of NPT states-parties since the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in September 2017, which is opposed by nuclear-weapon states. (See ACT, October 2017.)

Walsh, whose government was one of leading negotiators of the 2017 treaty, stated that, at the committee meetings, Ireland would “continue to emphasize the synergies that exist” between the prohibition treaty and the NPT and hopes that the sessions “will offer an opportunity to dispel any suggestion that states that were actively to the fore in negotiating the [prohibition treaty] are somehow disengaging from the NPT.”

Takamizawa encouraged all nuclear-weapon states to take “concrete disarmament measures, even small
steps that they can accomplish on a voluntary basis.”

Hans Brattskar, permanent representative of Norway to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, pointed to the success of cooperative measures between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, such as on nuclear disarmament verification. “From a Norwegian perspective, it is essential to foster the confidence needed for balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable reductions of nuclear arsenals in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, another disarmament body, the long-stalled CD, agreed on Feb. 16 to create subsidiary bodies to take forward a substantive program of work. The 65-member body, which operates on consensus, last agreed to programs of work in 2009 and in 1998.

Five subsidiary committees were established to address the cessation of the nuclear arms race, the prevention of nuclear war, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, new types of weapons of mass destruction, a comprehensive program of disarmament, and transparency in armaments.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a Feb. 16 statement, welcomed the move and urged CD members to “redouble their efforts and forge a new consensus for disarmament.” In his email, Bugajski also praised the development, but recommended “caution and patience,” given the failure of the body to implement the program of work adopted in 2009.

On March 15, the CD deadlocked over the coordinators for the five bodies, but after intensive consultations, the matter was resolved by adjusting the program of work.

“As a former French delegate to the CD, I can confirm that, oftentimes, procedural issues are a fig leaf for substantive differences,” wrote Marc Finaud, senior program adviser at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, in a Feb. 16 email to Arms Control Today.

 

Representatives seek practical steps to uphold the nonproliferation regime ahead of the treaty’s 50th anniversary.

Nuclear Declaratory Policy and Negative Security Assurances

March 2018

Contact: Kelsey DavenportDirector for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 462-8270; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 462-8270 x104

Updated: March 2018

The world’s nuclear-armed states each have declared, to varying degrees of specificity, when and under what circumstances they reserve the option to use their nuclear weapons. Most nuclear-armed states have also declared under what circumstances they rule out the use of nuclear weapons. These “positive” and “negative” nuclear declaratory policies are designed to deter adversaries from military actions and to assure non-nuclear weapon states and allies they will not be subject to a direct nuclear attack on their territory and should be dissuaded from pursuing nuclear weapons themselves.

There is no universal agreement among nuclear weapon states on the first-use of intercontinental ballistic missiles.Today, most nuclear-armed states, including the United States, reserve the option to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict. Only two nuclear-armed states (China and India) have declared no-first-use policies, by which they commit themselves to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack.

All five of the nuclear-weapon states recognized in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have issued a set of “negative” nuclear security assurances, which were recognized by the UN Security Council in Resolution 984 (1995). These pledges, however, are nonbinding and some nuclear-weapon states reserve the right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states under certain circumstances. The following is a more detailed summary of each country’s policies.

United States

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review report declared that there are four missions for the U.S. nuclear arsenal: deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attacks, assurance of allies and partners, achievement of U.S. objectives if deterrence fails, and capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.

The document reiterated that the United States does not maintain a nuclear “no first-use policy” on the grounds that U.S. response options must remain flexible to deter nuclear and non-nuclear attacks. “Non-nuclear capabilities,” according to the report, “can complement but not replace U.S. nuclear capabilities” for the purpose of deterrence. In the event that deterrence were to fail, the report also declared that Washington could use nuclear weapons to end a conflict on the “best achievable terms for the United States.”

The NPR dictates that the use of nuclear weapons will only be considered under “extreme circumstances” to defend the “vital interests” of the United States and its allies. It defines “extreme circumstances,” which the 2010 NPR did not, to include “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” against “U.S., allied or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”

The United States issued assurances not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon-state NPT members in 1978, 1995 and 2010 except in the case of “an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies, or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear- weapon State.” In 1997 the United States issued a classified presidential decision directive (PDD) reaffirming these pledges.

The 2018 NPR repeated existing U.S. negative security assurances by stating that Washington “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” However, the report qualified that the United States reserves the right to amend its negative assurance if warranted by “the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies.” At the February 2 press briefing following the report’s release, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood clarified that this may include cyber capabilities.

For a more details, see U.S. Negative Security Assurances at a Glance.

China
China issued negative security assurances at the United Nations in 1978 and 1995 and is the only NPT nuclear-weapon state that has declared a no-first-use policy, which it reiterated in February 2018.

At the 2018 Munich Security Conference, Fu Ying, chairperson of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress, said that “China is also committed to the principle of non-first-use of nuclear weapons, and no-use of nuclear weapons against any nuclear state [sic] at any circumstances and no-use of nuclear weapons against nuclear-free zones.”

In its April 1995 letter to UN members outlining its negative security assurances, China declared that it “undertakes not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances.” China consistently reiterates this policy in its defense white papers. The most recent, edited in 2016, stated that “China will unconditionally not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or in nuclear-weapon-free zones, and will never enter into a nuclear arms race with any other country.”

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, China also called for the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument to prohibit first-use of nuclear weapons and use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states and nuclear-weapon free zones.

France
France maintains a policy of calculated ambiguity regarding first-use of nuclear weapons. A 2013 French government defense white paper states that “the use of nuclear weapons would only be conceivable in extreme circumstances of legitimate self-defence” and that “[b]eing strictly defensive, nuclear deterrence protects France from any state-led aggression against its vital interests, of whatever origin and in whatever form.”

France issued negative security assurances at the UN in 1987 and 1995. In its 1995 statement to the UN, France pledged not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT “except in the case of invasion or any other attack on France, its territory, its armed forces or other troops, or against its allies or a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a State in alliance or association with a nuclear-weapon State.”

At the 2010 NPT Review Conference, France called for nuclear possessor states to “work resolutely to advance disarmament in all its aspects; in which the doctrines of nuclear powers will restrict the role of nuclear weapons solely to extreme circumstances of self-defence where their vital interests are under threat.”

Russia
According to the December 2014 Russian Military Doctrine Paper published by the Ministry of Defense, Russia reserves the option to use nuclear weapons in response to an attack involving any weapon of mass destruction, and in response to conventional attacks “when the very existence of the state is under threat.” This phrase suggests a willingness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states in the event of an impending conventional military defeat.

In 1993, Russia moved away from Leonid Brezhnev’s 1982 no-first-use pledge when the Russian Defense Ministry under Boris Yeltsin adopted a new doctrine on nuclear weapons. The new policy ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states that are party to the NPT but said nothing about use against states possessing nuclear weapons. Since the 1993 shift, many Western analysts have come to believe that Russia pursues an “escalate to de-escalate” strategy—the notion that, in the event of a large-scale conventional conflict, the Kremlin would use or threaten to use low-yield nuclear weapons to coerce an adversary to cease attacks or withdraw. However, other analysts maintain that this is not the case. 

Russia issued unilateral negative security assurances not to attack non-nuclear-weapon states in 1978 and 1995, but stated in 1995 that those pledges would not apply “in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the Russian Federation, its territory, its armed forces or other troops, its allies or on a State toward which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State.”

United Kingdom
In the 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review document, the United Kingdom said it will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with the treaty’s obligations. The United Kingdom appears to leave open the option to use nuclear weapons in response to WMD threats, such as chemical or biological attacks, if such threats emerge. Currently London acknowledged that there is “no direct threat” posed by WMDs to the United Kingdom in the 2015 document, but the government reserves the right to “review this assurance if the future threat, development or proliferation of these weapons make it necessary.”

The United Kingdom issued a unilateral negative nuclear security assurance in 1978 and again in 1995. In the 1995 pledge the United Kingdom said it will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT. This assurance does not apply, however, to any state acting “in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon state” that attacks the United Kingdom, its territories or allies, or any state in breach of its commitments under the NPT.

India
India has a no-first-use doctrine. As the government stated in a draft nuclear doctrine in August 1999, “India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail.” Although India has adopted a no-first-use policy, some Indian strategists have called the pledge’s validity into question. The credibility of this pledge was weakened in 2009 when Indian Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor suggested that the government should review the pledge in light of the growing threat of Pakistan. In 2010, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon stated that India's nuclear doctrine was “no first use against non-nuclear weapons states.” MIT professor Vipin Narang has also observed that “the force requirements India needs in order to credibly threaten assured retaliation against China may allow it to pursue more aggressive strategies—such as escalation dominance or a ‘splendid first strike’—against Pakistan.”

During debate at the Conference on Disarmament in 2014, India’s representative reiterated the government’s no-first-use policy and the policy on nonuse against non-nuclear-weapon states and said that India was “prepared to convert these undertakings into multilateral legal arrangements.”

Israel
Given that Israel has not acknowledged possession of nuclear weapons, it has not made any statements regarding its willingness to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. Israel generally abstains from voting on an annual UN General Assembly resolution that would establish international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would not be used against them, including recently in resolution 72/25 in 2017.

Pakistan
Pakistan has only issued negative nuclear security guarantees to those states that are not armed with nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s position regarding when and whether it would use nuclear weapons in a conflict with another nuclear-armed state, namely India, is far more ambiguous. Pakistani officials have indicated that the circumstances surrounding its no-first-use policy must remain deliberately imprecise, as demarcating clear redlines could allow provocations by the Indian military just below any established threshold for use.

In a 2015 statement, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is one-dimensional, that is it for "stopping Indian aggression before it happens" “not for starting a war.” He also said in 2015 that Pakistan is capable of answering aggression from India due to Islamabad’s development of short-range tactical nuclear weapons. In July 2016, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif suggested Islamabad would use nuclear weapons for defensive purposes in armed conflict with India.

North Korea
Following its fourth nuclear test in January 2016, Pyongyang declared a policy of no-first-use under the condition that hostile forces do not encroach on its sovereignty. The Jan. 6, 2016 government statement said that North Korea, as a “responsible nuclear weapons state, will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons…as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty.”  North Korea has re-affirmed this stance at the May 2016 Worker's Party Congress in Pyongyang and in the 2018 New Year's Address. North Korea, however, routinely threatens to use nuclear weapons against perceived threats, including against the United States and South Korea, a non-nuclear-weapon state.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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A Dangerous Retreat From Disarmament Diplomacy

March 2018
By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, the United States has played a leadership role in global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy to help advance U.S. and international security. Past presidents have actively led efforts to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons leading to their eventual elimination, a key obligation undertaken by all states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

For decades, U.S. presidents have pursued arms control agreements under difficult circumstances, often when relations with foreign adversaries were at their worst. Dwight Eisenhower pursued a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets, and John Kennedy concluded the Limited Test Ban Treaty. Under Lyndon Johnson, the United States led the way on the negotiation of the NPT and initiated strategic arms talks with the Soviets, which opened the way for Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter to conclude strategic arms limitation treaties.

At their 1985 Geneva Summit, president’s Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev declared: "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." (Photo: White House Photo Office)Ronald Reagan, under strong public pressure to freeze the arms race, negotiated agreements with the Soviets to ban intermediate-range missiles and verifiably reduce strategic nuclear arsenals. George H.W. Bush took bold steps to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons during the tumultuous final days of the Soviet Union.

Bill Clinton’s administration convinced three former Soviet republics to give up their nuclear weapons, pushed for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), secured the indefinite extension of the NPT, and negotiated a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program. Even George W. Bush accelerated the pace of U.S. strategic arms reductions under an agreement with Russia. Barack Obama prioritized the negotiation and ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and, despite worsening relations with Russia, put enormous effort into the negotiation of the complex deal to curtail and contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Now, citing a “threatening security environment,” the administration of Donald Trump is effectively abandoning the United States' traditional global leadership role on nuclear arms control. At the same time, it is accelerating costly plans to rebuild the oversized U.S. nuclear arsenal, pushing to develop and deploy new nuclear capabilities, and expanding the range of circumstances in which the United States might consider using nuclear weapons.

As Trump explained on Feb. 12, the United States is “creating a brand new nuclear force.... We’re gonna be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before.” He continued, “Frankly I’d like to get rid of a lot of ‘em [nuclear weapons]. And if they [other nuclear-armed states] want to do that, we’ll go along with them. We won’t lead the way, we’ll go along with them.”

Trump’s passive and aggressive attitude on nuclear matters is fraught with peril. History shows that nuclear risk reduction and proliferation prevention does not just magically happen. It requires persistent, creative, and energetic U.S.-led diplomacy and engagement with adversaries.

But the Trump administration’s newly completed Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) does not offer any new nuclear risk reduction initiatives. Instead, the report meekly states that “the United States will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit.” The report does reiterate U.S. support for the nonproliferation elements of the NPT, but omits any mention of the U.S. disarmament commitments under Article VI of the treaty. Nevertheless, U.S. diplomats gamely claim that Trump “remains firmly committed to nonproliferation” and will continue to abide by the NPT commitments.

The NPR report does not even commit to the extension of New START, which will expire in three years. If the treaty is allowed to lapse in 2021 with nothing to replace it, there will be no limits on U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces for the first time since 1972. At a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained, New START is even more vital for strategic stability and risk reduction. The NPR report also declares, without any explanation, that the United States will not seek ratification of the CTBT, a treaty the United States and 182 other states have signed that has not entered into force. Worse still, the Trump administration is actively undermining the global nuclear nonproliferation regime by threatening to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal if the other parties do not agree to extend indefinitely the current limits on Iran’s nuclear capacity. The better approach is to fully implement the agreement and seek opportunities to build on its nonproliferation value.

Responsible nations do not ignore their legal and political commitments on nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament. They cannot afford to undercut effective treaties and miss opportunities to reduce and eliminate nuclear risk, especially now. This applies to U.S. dealings with North Korea, which has finally indicated it is open to direct talks with Washington. This also applies to Russia, which is violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Absent U.S. leadership, other states and the United Nations will need to put forward creative approaches to bring about a cessation of the arms race, draw all nuclear-armed nations into the disarmament enterprise, and reduce the nuclear danger.


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

 

Since the beginning of the nuclear age, the United States has played a leadership role in global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament diplomacy to help advance U.S. and international security.

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