Login/Logout

*
*  

"[The Arms Control Association is an] 'exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size.'" 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Pressroom

Nuclear Weapons Policy Experts Praise Biden for Transparency on Nuclear Arsenal

Sections:

Body: 

Statement by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director

For Immediate Release: October 6, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext.107; Shannon Bugos, research associate, (202) 463-8270 ext. 113

The Biden administration’s decision to declassify updated information on the number of nuclear warheads in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal is a welcome step that reverses an unwise decision by the Trump administration to classify this information. It also puts pressure on other nuclear armed states that maintain excessive secrecy about their arsenals, and highlights the need for further steps to reduce the number, role, and risk of nuclear weapons in the United States and world’s other eight nuclear-armed states.

The October 5 declassification announcement indicates that the total number of “active” and “inactive” warheads is 3,750 as of September 2020. The stockpile figures do not include retired warheads and those awaiting dismantlement. The updated stockpile number is only 72 warheads fewer than the figure announced in September 2017, after which the Trump administration decided as a matter of policy not to provide any further updates on the size of the U.S. stockpile.

Interestingly, the detailed figures released yesterday show, Donald Trump as the first post-Cold War  that for the first time in 25 years, the United States increased the size of the nuclear arsenal between the years 2018 and 2019. As our colleagues at the Federation of Scientists suggest, this may be due to the deployment of the a new, low-yield warhead on the D-5 sub-based strategic ballistic missile by the Trump administration.

In a democratic society, it is essential that the public and our elected leaders have the information necessary to engage in a fact-based discussion of key issues affecting national and international security—nuclear weapons being among the most consequential.

By being more transparent about the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile size, the United States is on much firmer ground to put pressure on other nuclear-armed states, particularly Russia and China to be more responsible nuclear possessors by providing basic information on the number and types of nuclear weapons in their arsenals. This is essential to understanding whether and how they world’s nuclear-armed states are—or are not—meeting their obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and elsewhere to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

Agreement on enhanced nuclear stockpile transparency is also necessary if there is to be further progress on arms control and disarmament measures between the United States and Russia beyond the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and with China in the future.

The updated U.S. nuclear stockpile figures do, however, underscore several troubling realities:

  • progress toward serious nuclear weapons stockpile reductions have stalled in recent years, and some states, particularly China and Russia, appear to be increasing the size and/or diversity of their arsenals.
  • an arsenal of 3,750 nuclear warheads, including approximately 1,389 strategic deployed warheads on 665 land-based and sea-based missiles and bombers accountable under New START, is more than enough to deliver a devastating nuclear blow to any nuclear-armed adversary. It would take just a few hundred U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy Russian and Chinese military capacity, kill hundreds of millions of innocent people, and produce a planetary climate catastrophe. And according to previous Pentagon assessments, the United States could further reduce its deployed strategic arsenal even further and still deter a nuclear weapons attack by any nuclear-armed adversary against the United States or our treaty allies. 

The Biden administration has pledged to “take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy” and to seek to “head off costly arms races and re-establish our credibility as a leader in arms control.”

As the administration continue to work on its Nuclear Posture Review, we hope and expect it will take further tangible steps to provide the leadership necessary to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons worldwide.

Description: 

The Biden administration’s decision to declassify information on the number of U.S. nuclear warheads is a welcome step that reverses an unwise decision by the Trump administration.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

25 Years After Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Testing Is Taboo

Sections:

Body: 


For Immediate Release: Sept. 20, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, the Washington-based Arms Control Association hailed the success of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which opened for signature 25 years ago this week, and called for bolder action by UN member states and the UN Security Council to bolster international support for the global norm against nuclear weapons testing and to push the remaining eight CTBT hold-out states to ratify the treaty.

In events later this week at the United Nations in New York, the international community will mark the 25th anniversary of the treaty, the successful creation and operation the international monitoring system to verify compliance, and the value of a testing halt. A high-level conference will be convened September 23 at UN headquarters, and a special UN Security Council session will convened September 27 by Ireland, which holds the presidency of the Council.

The treaty, which opened for signature Sept. 24, 1996, has near-universal support with 185 signatories, including the five original nuclear testing states. All CTBT states agree that the treaty prohibits “any nuclear weapons test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion” no matter what the explosive yield.

“A quarter century after it was concluded, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has achieved its core goal: halting nuclear test explosions,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Most of the 2,000-plus nuclear test blasts conducted by the world’s nine nuclear-armed states were used to confirm new warhead designs and develop more deadly weapons systems, which in turn fueled a dangerous spiral of global nuclear competition.

Without the option to conduct nuclear tests, it is more difficult, although not impossible, for even the most advanced nuclear states to develop, prove, and field new warhead designs. The CTBT is a powerful brake on vertical and horizontal nuclear proliferation.

“The CTBT has effectively put an end to militarily significant nuclear test blasts. Today, even those nuclear-armed states that have not signed or not ratified the CTBT, including India, Israel, and Pakistan, observe nuclear testing moratoriums. Only one country has conducted nuclear test explosions in this century, and even that country—North Korea—halted nuclear testing in 2017,” noted Kimball, who has campaigned for a global testing halt for more than 30 years.

However, because of the treaty's onerous entry-into-force requirement and the failure of eight key states, including the United States and China, to ratify, the treaty has not entered into force. Among other challenges, this means the treaty’s short-notice on-site inspection tools cannot yet be used.

"President Joe Biden, a longtime CTBT advocate, should clearly reaffirm U.S. support for the treaty and its entry into force," Kimball said.

In 2020, then-candidate Biden said: “We have not tested a [nuclear] device since 1992, we don’t need to do so now. A resumption of testing is more likely to prompt other countries to resume militarily significant nuclear testing and undermine our nuclear nonproliferation goals.”

“We cannot afford to take the non-testing norm for granted. To keep a de facto global nuclear test moratorium intact and make headway toward the formal entry into force of the treaty, friends of the CTBT will need to do more than make speeches. Key states will need to rejuvenate their efforts to achieve its entry into force and reinforce the taboo against nuclear testing,” Kimball urged.

“We call on:

  • all UN Security Council Members, including India, to reaffirm their support for a halt to all nuclear testing and pledge to act against violators. Those that have not yet ratified, should explain the status of their ratification efforts.
  • States-parties to the upcoming nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference should agree to demand that any state that has conducted a nuclear test explosion should seek to initiate their ratification process by 2025.
  • the United States, Russia, and China, each of which continue activities at their test sites, to agree to adopt additional voluntary measures designed to detect and deter possible low-level, clandestine nuclear testing prior to entry into force.”

The last time the Security Council most addressed the issue of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was on Sept. 22, 2016, marking the 20th anniversary of the Treaty, adopting Security Council Resolution (2310).

“Keeping the door shut on nuclear testing requires leadership and action on the CTBT. It is in every country’s interest to take action to bring the treaty into force, to strengthen the taboo against nuclear testing, and to fully support the work of the CTBT Organization in Vienna,” Kimball said.

 

Description: 

The Arms Control Association hails the success of the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which opened for signature 25 years ago this week, and calls for bolder action by UN member states and the UN Security Council to bolster international support for the global norm.

New Report Released on the Allure and Risks of Hypersonic Weapons

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: Sept. 14, 2021

Media Contacts: Shannon Bugos, research associate, [email protected], and Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, [email protected]

(WASHINGTON, DC)—A new report from the Arms Control Association details the growing allure but also the risks of the aggressive pursuit of hypersonic weapons by the United States amid a renewed emphasis on military competition with China and Russia. The report also proposes action items for Congress to better understand the Defense Department’s plans for the weapons and mitigate strategic stability risks.

The debate concerning hypersonic weapons has gained increased attention in recent years as the United States has poured billions of dollars—and plans to pour billions more—into accelerating the development of hypersonic weapons and as China and Russia make headway in developing and deploying their own such weapons. The Pentagon is funding no less than eight prototype hypersonic weapons programs with the aim of fielding an initial capability of at least some of those by 2022.

“[T]he U.S. rush to field hypersonic weapons merits a more critical examination by the Biden administration and Congress given the many unanswered questions about their rationale, technical viability, cost-effectiveness, and escalatory risks,” write Shannon Bugos, a research associate, and Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.

“It is time—in fact, past time—for Congress to demand these answers before the military begins fielding the weapons in great numbers,” they say.

The report, Understanding Hypersonic Weapons: Managing the Allure and the Risks, outlines the scope of the unanswered questions about the case for hypersonic weapons, details the underappreciated risks to stability posed by the weapons, assesses the viability of arms control as a tool to reduce these risks, and suggests recommended action items for Congress to better its understanding about the Pentagon’s plans for the weapons, eliminate potential redundancies in weapons capabilities, and mitigate stability risks.

The full report is available for download at ArmsControl.org/Reports.

Description: 

This new report details the growing allure—and risks—of hypersonic weapons being pursued by the United States amid a renewed emphasis on military competition with China and Russia. The report also proposes action items for Congress to better understand the Defense Department’s plans for the weapons and mitigate strategic stability risks.

Country Resources:

New Report on Congressional Perspectives on U.S. Policy toward North Korea

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: August 9, 2021

Media Contacts: Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 102; and Julia Masterson, research associate, (202) 463-8270 ext. 103

(WASHINGTON, D.C)—Addressing the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons is one of the most significant and complex challenges facing the United States. Developing, implementing, and sustaining a verifiable diplomatic process that reduces risk and rolls back Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program requires a whole of government approach, including constructive contributions from members of the U.S. Congress.

While crafting and implementing such an approach will be the prerogative of the Executive Branch, the role that Congress can play in supporting or hindering such a process should not be overlooked. Congress has used an array of tools to put in place conditions for negotiations, express its support or opposition to administration policy, and implement coercive measures toward North Korea designed to punish Pyongyang for its violations of international law and stymie its weapons development efforts.

Using survey data and in-depth interviews from the late months of 2020, this report provides insight into how Congress views the North Korean nuclear threat and U.S. approaches to engaging with Pyongyang. More clarity into Congressional views and attitudes may lead to more effective policymaking.

The full report is available for download at ArmsControl.org/Reports.

Description: 

Using survey data and in-depth interviews, this report provides insight into how Congress views the North Korean nuclear threat and U.S. approaches to engaging with Pyongyang.

Country Resources:

National Security Experts, Former Officials, Diplomats Urge Senate Approval of Key Biden Nominee

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 21, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association (202-463-8270 ext. 107).

(Washington, D.C.)—Earlier today a distinguished, bipartisan group of more than 65 international security experts and former officials delivered an open letter to all 100 U.S. Senate offices in support of a key Biden administration nominee, Amb. Bonnie Jenkins for the position of Undersecretary of State for Intl. Security and Arms Control.

The letter says, in part:

"As arms control, international security, and foreign policy experts with years of experience in and out of government, we believe President Joe Biden — or any president — needs a strong and experienced team in place to address issues of international security, particularly the difficult and urgent challenges posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the countries that possess them or that could develop them.

Five months since inauguration day, the president’s nominee for one of the most important positions in this area — Amb. Bonnie Jenkins for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security — has yet to be confirmed. Further delays of this nomination will hamper our nation’s ability to put its best diplomatic foot forward at a critical time."

The Jenkins nomination was announced Feb. 1. Her nomination hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was held April 28 and her nomination was voted out of the committee favorably May 19.

Among the signers of the letter of support for Amb. Jenkins' nomination are several senior officials who have served in Democratic and Republican administrations. Jenkins, the signers write, “ … has a comprehensive understanding of weapons-related security issues and is a very experienced international diplomat. We respectfully urge the swift confirmation by the Senate of the Jenkins nomination.”

As President Biden's Interim National Security Strategy notes: "Global dynamics have shifted. New crises demand our attention.” It is a "moment of accelerating global challenges — from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation.” The signatories on the letter note

"This means that our nation has no time to lose when it comes to putting in place the leadership team in government that can harness America's diplomatic power, which is essential to advancing effective solutions to address the most difficult security and foreign policy challenges.”

The full text of the open letter and the complete list of signers is attached below. It is also available in PDF format.


Open Letter in Support of Amb. Bonnie Jenkins to Help Lead
U.S. Efforts on Arms Control and International Security

June 21, 2021

As President Biden's Interim National Security Strategy notes: "Global dynamics have shifted. New crises demand our attention.” It is a "moment of accelerating global challenges—from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation .…"

This means that our nation has no time to lose when it comes to putting in place the leadership team in government that can harness America's diplomatic power, which is essential to advancing effective solutions to address the most difficult security and foreign policy challenges.

As arms control, international security, and foreign policy experts with years of experience in and out of government, we believe President Joe Biden—or any president—needs a strong and experienced team in place to address issues of international security, particularly the difficult and urgent challenges posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the countries that possess them or that could develop them.

Five months since inauguration day, the president’s nominee for one of the most important positions in this area—Amb. Bonnie Jenkins for Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security—has yet to be confirmed. Further delays of this nomination will hamper our nation’s ability to put its best diplomatic foot forward at a critical time.

In the coming weeks and months, her leadership will be important to help the State Department and the White House:

  • follow up on the June 16 Biden-Putin summit by launching strategic stability talks with Russia to put the relationship on a more predictable footing and to reduce the risk of conflict,
  • open new diplomatic channels that bring China and its nuclear arsenal into the arms control process,
  • backstop talks designed to rein-in North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear ambitions,
  • strengthen international support for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the pivotal 10th Review Conference,
  • build international nuclear security cooperation to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring or using fissile and radiological materials,
  • bolster international biosecurity cooperation through the G7 Global Partnership and the November Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference to reduce the risk of illicit bioweapons use and to reduce the risk that dangerous pathogens escape biolabs, among other challenges and,
  • strengthen both U.S. and multilateral efforts to further strengthen the norms against the use of chemical weapons.

We also recognize the important role Amb. Jenkins will play on positions the U.S government is developing in other areas of international security, including arms sales and the effort to put human rights at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy.

We have known and worked with Amb. Jenkins, in some cases for decades. She has a comprehensive understanding of weapons-related security issues and is a very experienced international diplomat. She served as Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, was the State Department lead on the Nuclear Security Summits, the U.S. Representative to G7 Global Partnership, helped lead diplomatic efforts on the Global Health Security Agenda, and was nominated for the 2016 Secretary of State's Award for Excellence in International Security Affairs.

Amb. Jenkins’ experience ranges from government service where she helped negotiate, seek advice and consent, and implement arms control and nonproliferation agreements as an international treaty lawyer, to the non-governmental sector, including establishing and leading a groundbreaking non-governmental organization, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security and its many related initiatives, to military service as a retired Naval Reserve officer called up to Active Duty on the Global War on Terrorism, to Congressional Commissions, including the 9/11 Commission.

With a Ph.D. in international relations, Amb. Jenkins has a strong record of scholarship and engagement with the academic and policy communities and has shown exemplary leadership in advancing new voices and diverse leadership in the fields of international security.

We respectfully urge the swift confirmation by the Senate of the Jenkins nomination.

Sincerely,

James Acton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for Intl. Peace*
Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America*
Daniel Baer, former U.S. Amb. to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Frederick Beinecke, Vice President & Chair, Nuclear Disarmament & Nonproliferation Program, Prospect Hill Foundation
Emma Belcher, President, Ploughshares Fund
John Beyrle, U.S. Ambassador to Russia (2008-12), Chairman, U.S.-Russia Foundation*
Jeremy Ben-Ami, President, J Street*
Reuben Brigety, former U.S. Amb. to the U.S. Mission to the African Union
Kenneth Brill, former U.S. Amb. to the IAEA (2001-04), founding Director of the U.S. National Counterproliferation Center (2005-09), and Board Member of the American Academy of Diplomacy
Rachel Bronson, President and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists*
Lauren Buitta, Founder and CEO, Girl Security
Matthew Bunn, James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government*
Susan F. Burk, former Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation, and head of the U.S. delegation for the 2010 NPT Review Conference
Johnnie Carson, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
Jeff Carter, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility*
Rebecca Bill Chavez, Senior Fellow, Inter-American Dialogue*
Joseph Cirincione, Distinguished Fellow, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft*
James F. Collins, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, (1997-2001), and Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Pierce Corden, Expert Adviser, Holy See Mission to the United Nations
Peter Crail, former senior advisor to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Business Executives for International Security*
Madelyn Creedon, President, Green Marble Group, former principal deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (2014-17), and assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs from (2011-14)
Richard Cupitt, Senior Fellow, Henry L. Stimson Center,* and former U.S. Special Coordinator for UN Security Resolution 1540 (2004)
Mary Curtin, Diplomat in Residence, Humphrey School of Public Affairs*
Toby Dalton, Co-Director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for Intl. Peace*
Ruth Davis, Amb. (ret.), Association of Black American Ambassadors, and former Director-General of the United States Foreign Service
Edwin Dorn, Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas*
Jill Dougherty, Adjunct Fellow, Georgetown University*
Tara Drozdenko, physical scientist formerly with the Arms Control Verification and Compliance Bureau, U.S. Department of State
Stephanie Foster, Co-Founder and Partner, Smash Strategies,* and former senior advisor, Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
Robert Gelbard, President, Gelbard International Consulting*
Rose Gottemoeller, former Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State
Thomas Graham, Jr., Amb. (ret.) and former U.S. nonproliferation and arms control diplomat, and Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors Lightbridge Corporation*
Jonathan Granoff, President, Global Security Institute*
Morton Halperin, Director of U.S. advocacy at the Open Society Institute, and former senior director for democracy at the National Security Council, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Johnson administration, and as a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Nixon and Clinton administrations
Anne Harrington, former Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, National Nuclear Security Administration (2010-17)
Mark Harris, Co-founder, Inclusive America*
Newell Highsmith, former Deputy Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State
James Jeffrey, Amb. (ret.), with assignments including U.S. Amb. to Iraq (2010–12); Amb. to Turkey (2008–10); Deputy National Security Advisor (2007–08); and Amb. to (2002–04)
Lionel C. Johnson, Chairman, Foreign Policy for America
Laura Kennedy, former U.S. Amb. to Turkmenistan (2001-03), former U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, and Special Representative for Biological Weapons Convention Issues (2010-13)
Duyeon Kim, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security*
Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, publisher and editorial contributor, Arms Control Today
Susan Koch, former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Arms Control, 2005-07; NSC Staff Director for Proliferation Strategy, 2001-05; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction Policy, 1994-2001; Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control, NSC Staff, 1991-93; and Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Assistant Director, Strategic and Nuclear Affairs, 1990-91
Sara Kutchesfahani, Director, N Square DC Hub
Valerie Lincy, Executive Director, Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control
Alexandria Maloney, Board Member, Black Professionals in International Affairs*
David Mathews, President and CEO, Kettering Foundation*
Kenneth Meyers, President, CRDF Global*
Steven Miller, International Security Program, Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School*
Silvia Mishra, New Tech Officer, European Leadership Network*
J.P. Natkin, Managing Director, Macro-Advisory Ltd.
Nancy Parrish, Executive Director, Women’s Action for New Directions
William Potter, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*
Matthew Rojansky, U.S. Executive Secretary, U.S.-Russia Dartmouth Conference*
Amy Sands, Emerita Staff, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey*
Theodore Sedgwick, former U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic (2010-15)
Andrew Semmel, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2003-07), Partnership for a Secure America*
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State (2009-11), CEO of New America
Shalonda Spencer, Executive Director, Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security*
Donald Steinberg, Board Co-Chair, Women’s Refugee Commission*
Philip Stewart, Senior Associate, Kettering Foundation,* and Director of the U.S.-Russia Dartmouth Conference*
Alexandra Toma, Executive Director, Peace and Security Funders Group*
Jenny Town, Senior Fellow, Henry L. Stimson Center*
David Wade, U.S. State Department, Chief of Staff (2013-15), and Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace*
Paul Walker, Coordinator, Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition,* and former professional staff member, House Armed Services Committee
Taylor Winkleman, International Affairs Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations*
Alexander Vershbow, former Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea (2005-08), U.S. Amb. to the Russian Federation (2001-05), and U.S. Amb. to NATO (1997-2001)
Peter Zwack, Brigadier Gen. (ret.), Wilson Center Global Fellow at the Kennan Institute*


*Institution listed for identification purposes only

Description: 

A bipartisan group of international security experts and former officials delivered an open letter to all U.S. Senate offices in support of a key Biden administration nominee.

Will Biden and Putin Restart Talks on Strategic Stability & Arms Control?

Sections:

Body: 


For Immediate Release: June 14, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Shannon Bugos, research associate, 202-463-8270 ext 113

The June 16 summit in Geneva between President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin is a pivotal opportunity to begin to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict, enhance stability, and get back on track to reduce their bloated and very dangerous nuclear stockpiles.

Amid rising tensions and growing nuclear competition between the world’s two largest nuclear-weapon states, nuclear risk reduction and disarmament discussions have been pushed to the back burner. Both countries are spending tens of billions a year modernizing and upgrading their massive nuclear stockpiles. Russia has wantonly violated several arms control and nonproliferation agreements, is developing new nuclear weapons delivery systems that echo some of the worst excesses of the Cold War, and may be increasing its total warhead stockpile for the first time in decades.

The strategic relationship has been further complicated by the development and fielding by each side of emerging technologies, such as offensive cyber and hypersonic weapons, and new advances in U.S. missile defense systems.

In February, Biden and Putin wisely agreed to extend for five years the only remaining treaty limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals: the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). But unless Washington and Moscow make progress in the next few years on new nuclear arms control agreements, there will be no agreed-upon limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons for the first time since 1972.

Mutual Interest in "Strategic Stability"

While there are many areas of disagreement between the two governments, both sides have expressed a common interest in renewing a serious dialogue on maintaining “strategic stability.”

As established in earlier bilateral agreements and previous summit communiques, such dialogue aims to ensure that neither side has an incentive to use nuclear weapons first or has an incentive to build up its nuclear forces.

Today, however, each side has a different view on what threatens strategic stability and what issues should be the focus of such talks and future potential arms control arrangements.

On June 10 National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: “We believe the starting point for strategic stability talks should be the very complex set of nuclear arms issues that face our two countries….Whether additional elements get added to strategic stability talks in the realm of space or cyber or other areas, that’s something to be determined as we go forward.”

Conversely, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated this month Russia’s support for “a comprehensive approach and taking into account all, without exception, factors influencing strategic stability in our dialogue with the United States. I mean nuclear and non-nuclear, and offensive and defensive weapons.”

To be effective, the discussions need to amount to more than brief exchanges of grievances, as was the case during the Trump years. Instead, as many nuclear security and disarmament experts and organizations, including the Arms Control Association, have suggested, the dialogue needs to be regular, frequent, and comprehensive. It should set the stage for actions and agreements that meaningfully reduce the nuclear risk.

As a tangible step to help defuse tensions and provide some positive momentum, a wide range of experts and former senior officials are also calling on the two presidents to reaffirm the common-sense statement issued by Gorbachev and Reagan at their 1985 summit that: “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

Next Steps on Arms Control

Initiating strategic stability talks is overdue and essential. Achieving new agreements to reduce nuclear excess will be even more challenging.

To make progress before New START expires in 2026, they will need to pursue solutions that:

  • achieve deeper, verifiable reductions in the total number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads and delivery systems;
  • address nonstrategic (i.e., tactical) nuclear weapons;
  • put in place constraints on non-nuclear weapons that impact the strategic balance, such as long-range missile defenses; attempt to mitigate the negative impacts on stability that could ensue from the collapse of the INF Treaty; and
  • seek to broaden the arms control and disarmament dialogue to include other nuclear-armed states, particularly China, France, and the United Kingdom.

In 1979, during the depths of the Cold War, then-Senator Joe Biden told an Arms Control Association gathering that “pursuing arms control is not a luxury or a sign of weakness, but an international responsibility and a national necessity.”

Description: 

Background for Reporters Covering the Geneva Summit

Country Resources:

High-Level Group Issues Appeal to Biden and Putin to Reduce Nuclear Weapons Dangers

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 8, 2021

Media Contacts: Ira Helfand, past president, IPPNW (1-413-320-7829); Sergey Batsanov, Pugwash Conferences (+41-791-554-610); Rachel Bronson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1-312-404-3071); Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association (1-202-463-8270 ext. 107).

(Washington, D.C./Moscow)—In advance of the first summit between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joseph R. Biden in Geneva on June 16, a group of more than 30 American and Russian organizations, international nuclear policy experts, and former senior officials have issued an appeal to the two Presidents calling upon them to launch a regular dialogue on strategic stability, to take meaningful steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war, and to make further progress on nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The statement was organized by leaders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Pugwash Conference on Science and Global Affairs, the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Peace, and the Arms Control Association.

In the statement, which was delivered to the two governments on June 7, the signatories urge the two presidents to: "Commit to a bilateral strategic dialogue that is regular, frequent, comprehensive and result-oriented leading to further reduction of the nuclear risk hanging over the world and to the re-discovery of the road to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Sergey Batsanov of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs emphasized that the summit "could be a launching point for talks on strategic stability in all its aspects. Stability is being eroded by multiple factors—geopolitical, technological, military, doctrinal, and others—raising the threat of nuclear war and undermining the security of all states. Addressing this issue would also facilitate new nuclear arms control and disarmament negotiations.”

Ira Helfand, past president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said: “It is urgent that President Biden and President Putin reaffirm the ground-breaking statement issued by Gorbachev and Reagan in 1985 that 'a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’”

“U.S. and Russia are still armed with thousands of nuclear weapons. It is by no means certain that the two sides will continue to have enough good luck, responsible leadership, and managerial competence to avoid catastrophe,” warned Rachel Bronson, president of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “We urge the two presidents to seize the opportunity their summit provides to put us back on the road toward a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Among the other signatories of the Appeal are: Peter Buijs, M.D., chair of the Netherlands IPPNW, who initiated the Appeal; Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation; Academician Alexandre Dynkin, Chair, Russian Pugwash Committee; William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense; Amb. Sergio Duarte, president of the Pugwash Conferences; General Vyacheslav Trubnikov, IMEMO (Institute of World Economy and International Relations); Joan Rohlfing, president of the Nuclear Threat Initiative; Edmund G. Brown Jr., former Governor of California Executive Chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; and Colonel General Victor Esin, former chief of staff, Russian Strategic Missile Forces.

The full text of the appeal and the complete list of signers is available online at the websites of the Arms Control Association, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and the Pugwash Conference.

Description: 

In advance of the June 16 summit between Presidents Biden and Putin, more than 30 American and Russian organizations, international nuclear policy experts, and former senior officials have issued an appeal to the two Presidents calling upon them to launch a regular dialogue to reduce the risk of nuclear war.

Country Resources:

Biden Budget Should Support More Cost-Effective, Stabilizing, Saner Nuclear Strategy

Sections:

Body: 

Experts Available for Comment on Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request

For Immediate Release: May 27, 2021

Media ContactsKingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Shannon Bugos, research associate, 202-463-8270 ext. 113

(Washington, D.C.)—The Biden administration is set to release its fiscal year 2022 national defense budget request May 28. The request is expected to continue forward with most, if not all, of the Trump administration’s excessive plans to sustain and modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Failure to adjust the existing approach would be a disappointing missed opportunity to put the modernization effort on a more cost-effective and stable footing while ensuring a strong deterrent.

The United States is planning to spend $634 billion over the next decade to sustain and modernize its arsenal, according to a Congressional Budget Office report published Monday. This is an increase of $140 billion, or 28 percent, from the previous 10-year projection. The major uptick in spending will compete with other national security priorities, such as strengthening pandemic defense and response and augmenting U.S. conventional military capabilities, amid what most experts believe will be a flat defense budget over the next several years.

During the campaign, President Biden said the United States “does not need new nuclear weapons” and that his “administration will work to maintain a strong, credible deterrent while reducing our reliance and excessive expenditure on nuclear weapons.” Biden is right. Current U.S. nuclear weapons policies exceed what is necessary for a credible nuclear deterrent, and the financial and opportunity costs of the current modernization plan are rising fast.

The Biden administration’s topline discretionary budget request released in April said that “While the Administration is reviewing the U.S. nuclear posture, the discretionary request supports ongoing nuclear modernization programs while ensuring that these efforts are sustainable.” But several current U.S. nuclear modernization efforts do not meet the “sustainable” criterion.

As the Government Accountability Office noted in a report published May 6, “every nuclear triad replacement program—including the B21, LRSO, GBSD, and Columbia class submarine, and every ongoing bomb and warhead modernization program—faces the prospect of delays due to program-specific and DOD- and DOE-wide risk factors.”

Meanwhile, projected spending on nuclear warheads and infrastructure at the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration has ballooned to $505 billion, according to the agency’s 25-year plan published in December. That represents a staggering increase of $113 billion from the 2020 version of the plan.

The Trump administration’s nuclear weapons policies and spending plans demand a fundamental rethinking.

The Biden administration had little time to prepare the fiscal year 2022 budget request. A forthcoming review of U.S. nuclear policy and posture will evaluate existing policies and spending plans in more detail. In keeping with President Biden’s views, the review should pursue a nuclear posture that is more stabilizing, supports the pursuit of additional arms control and reduction measures designed to enhance stability and reduce the chance of nuclear conflict, and frees up taxpayer dollars for higher priority national and health security needs.

Experts Available:

  • Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy, [email protected], 202-463-8270 ext. 104
  • Shannon Bugos, research associate, [email protected], 202-463-8270 ext. 113

Resources:

Description: 

Experts Available for Comment on Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request

Subject Resources:

Arms Control Experts on the Incident at Iran’s Natanz Nuclear Facility

Sections:

Body: 


For Immediate Release: April 11, 2021

Media ContactsKelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, 202-463-8270 ext. 102; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107

Israel allegedly sabotaged the power supply for Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility April 11 causing a blackout at the main uranium enrichment plant. While the extent of the damage from the power outage remains unclear, this act of sabotage comes during a critical phase in the ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The United States and Iran engaged in indirect discussions in Vienna last week and are scheduled to resume indirect talks with the other parties to the JCPOA on April 13.

QUICK QUOTES:

  • “This act of sabotage damaged not only Natanz but also the Biden administration’s plan to return to compliance with the nuclear deal. Restoring the 2015 agreement and building on is the best way to address the risk posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The United States and Iran mustn't let this attack derail the progress being made in Vienna.”—Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy, Arms Control Association
     
  • “In the wake of the attacks on the Natanz nuclear facility, all International Atomic Energy Agency member states should support a thorough investigation of this incident and condemn this attack, and any other future attack, on nuclear facilities in any country. Just as it is essential that the international community must address any violations of nuclear nonproliferation commitments, it must respond to attacks involving physical sabotage of nuclear facilities as threats to international peace and security.” —Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association

ANALYSIS:

FACTSHEETS:

Description: 

The alleged sabotage of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility comes during a critical phase in the ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring the United States and Iran back into compliance with the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal.

Country Resources:

New UK Defense Strategy A Troubling Step Back on Nuclear Policy

Sections:

Body: 


For Immediate Release: March 15, 2021

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

The United Kingdom announced today that it will move to increase its total nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling by over 40 percent and reduce transparency about its nuclear arsenal. This is a needless and alarming reversal of the longstanding British policy to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons.

These changes, which are outlined in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, are also inconsistent with the British government’s prior pledges on nuclear disarmament under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The United Kingdom now joins China and perhaps Russia as the permanent members of the UN Security Council that are planning to increase the size of their warhead stockpiles. Open source estimates put the current size of the British arsenal at 195 warheads.

The review attributes the need to increase the total stockpile ceiling from the goal of 180 warheads (which was reaffirmed in 2015) to 260 warheads to “the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats,” but it does not explain how raising the number of warheads will enhance deterrence against these threats.

The United Kingdom’s decision to increase its warhead stockpile will contribute to the growing competition and distrust between nuclear-armed states. There is no compelling military or strategic rationale that justifies such an increase.

The review also states that the United Kingdom, which fields its warheads on sea-based ballistic missiles, will “no longer give public figures for our operational stockpile, deployed warhead or deployed missile numbers.” Like the United States, the United Kingdom’s past commitment to transparency about its nuclear forces has set it apart from other nuclear powers. Both governments have rightly criticized China for its excessive nuclear secrecy, for example. Such opacity is irresponsible and undemocratic.

The next NPT Review Conference slated for this summer was already poised to be a difficult and contentious one given the Trump administration’s efforts to expand the role and capability of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Russia’s development of grotesque new nuclear delivery systems (such as a nuclear-armed torpedo), and China’s continued modernization and expansion of its nuclear forces. The United Kingdom’s decision to increase its arsenal and clamp down on transparency will further worsen the atmosphere.

In addition, the United Kingdom’s new direction will complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to pursue further bilateral arms control and reduction measures with Russia. Russia has been adamant that any future nuclear cuts beyond the limits contained in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) should take into account the arsenals of the other nuclear-armed states, especially the United Kingdom and France. Moscow can be expected to make this argument even more forcefully after the United Kingdom’s announcement today.

President Biden and has pledged to “take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”

With the United Kingdom headed in the opposite direction, the Biden administration should cast an even more critical eye on the Trump administration’s weak rationale for accelerating the development of a newly designed third submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead (known as the W93) - and London’s lobbying of the U.S. Congress for support of U.S. funding for this new weapon.

The Trump administration justified the W93 in part on the grounds that it is vital to continuing U.S. support of the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal. But the United States can continue to support its ally without rushing forward with this new and unnecessary new nuclear warhead program.

Description: 

Statement from the Arms Control Association 

Country Resources:

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Pressroom