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"I really enjoyed the last phone conference. For those of us who support ACA but do not work in this field, these phone conferences are very educational."

– Maura Davenport
Member
December 12, 2017
Strategic Policy

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

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

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

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

You can help stop this!

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

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

Your Senators need to hear from you.

Country Resources:

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a Glance

History of the INF Treaty between the United States and Russia and details on potential violations by Russia

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: February 2019

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty's implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.

The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.” Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 repeated these allegations. In March 2017, a top U.S. official confirmed press reports that Russia had begun deploying the noncompliant missile. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement and has accused the United States of being in noncompliance.

On Dec. 8, 2017, the Trump administration released an integrated strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty, including the commencement of research and development on a conventional, road-mobile, intermediate-range missile system. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the INF Treaty, citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s intermediate-range missile arsenal. On Dec. 4, 2018 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time. On Feb. 2, the Trump administration declared a suspension of U.S. obligations under the INF Treaty and formally announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months. Shortly thereafter, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that Russia will be officially suspending its treaty obligations as well. 

Early History

U.S. calls for the control of intermediate-range missiles emerged as a result of the Soviet Union's domestic deployment of SS-20 intermediate-range missiles in the mid-1970s. The SS-20 qualitatively improved Soviet nuclear forces in the European theater by providing a longer-range, multiple-warhead alternative to aging Soviet SS-4 and SS-5 single-warhead missiles. In 1979, NATO ministers responded to the new Soviet missile deployment with what became known as the "dual-track" strategy—a simultaneous push for arms control negotiations with the deployment of intermediate-range, nuclear-armed U.S. missiles (ground-launched cruise missiles and the Pershing II) in Europe to offset the SS-20. Negotiations, however, faltered repeatedly while U.S. missile deployments continued in the early 1980s. The INF Treaty prohibited all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The official figures above show missiles deployed November 1, 1987, shortly before the INF Treaty was signed. The treaty also required destruction of 430 U.S. missiles and 979 Soviet missiles which were in storage or otherwise not deployed. The treaty prevented the planned deployment of an additional 208 GLCMs in the Netherlands, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. The Pershing IAs, under joint U.S.-German control, were not formally covered by the INF Treaty but were also to be eliminated by U.S. and West German agreement.

INF Treaty negotiations began to show progress once Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet general-secretary in March 1985. In the fall of the same year, the Soviet Union put forward a plan to establish a balance between the number of SS-20 warheads and the growing number of allied intermediate-range missile warheads in Europe. The United States expressed interest in the Soviet proposal, and the scope of the negotiations expanded in 1986 to include all U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles around the world. Using the momentum from these talks, President Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev began to move toward a comprehensive intermediate-range missile elimination agreement. Their efforts culminated in the signing of the INF Treaty on Dec. 8, 1987, and the treaty entered into force on June 1, 1988.

The intermediate-range missile ban originally applied only to U.S. and Soviet forces, but the treaty's membership expanded in 1991 to include successor states of the former Soviet Union. Today, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, which had inspectable facilities on their territories at the time of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, join Russia and the United States in the treaty's implementation. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also possessed INF Treaty-range facilities (SS-23 operating bases) but forgo treaty meetings with the consent of the other states-parties.

Although active states-parties to the treaty total just five countries, several European countries have destroyed INF Treaty-range missiles since the end of the Cold War. Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic destroyed their intermediate-range missiles in the 1990s, and Slovakia dismantled all of its remaining intermediate-range missiles in October 2000 after extensive U.S. prodding. On May 31, 2002, the last possessor of intermediate-range missiles in eastern Europe, Bulgaria, signed an agreement with the United States to destroy all of its INF Treaty-relevant missiles. Bulgaria completed the destruction five months later with U.S. funding.

States-parties' rights to conduct on-site inspections under the treaty ended on May 31, 2001, but the use of surveillance satellites for data collection continues. The INF Treaty established the Special Verification Commission (SVC) to act as an implementing body for the treaty, resolving questions of compliance and agreeing on measures to "improve [the treaty's] viability and effectiveness." Because the INF Treaty is of unlimited duration, states-parties could convene the SVC at any time.

Elimination Protocol

The INF Treaty's protocol on missile elimination named the specific types of ground-launched missiles to be destroyed and the acceptable means of doing so. Under the treaty, the United States committed to eliminate its Pershing II, Pershing IA, and Pershing IB ballistic missiles and BGM-109G cruise missiles. The Soviet Union had to destroy its SS-20, SS-4, SS-5, SS-12, and SS-23 ballistic missiles and SSC-X-4 cruise missiles. In addition, both parties were obliged to destroy all INF Treaty-related training missiles, rocket stages, launch canisters, and launchers. Most missiles were eliminated either by exploding them while they were unarmed and burning their stages or by cutting the missiles in half and severing their wings and tail sections.

Inspection and Verification Protocols

The INF Treaty's inspection protocol required states-parties to inspect and inventory each other's intermediate-range nuclear forces 30 to 90 days after the treaty's entry into force. Referred to as "baseline inspections," these exchanges laid the groundwork for future missile elimination by providing information on the size and location of U.S. and Soviet forces. Treaty provisions also allowed signatories to conduct up to 20 short-notice inspections per year at designated sites during the first three years of treaty implementation and to monitor specified missile-production facilities to guarantee that no new missiles were being produced.

The INF Treaty's verification protocol certified reductions through a combination of national technical means (i.e., satellite observation) and on-site inspections-a process by which each party could send observers to monitor the other's elimination efforts as they occurred. The protocol explicitly banned interference with photo-reconnaissance satellites, and states-parties were forbidden from concealing their missiles to impede verification activities. Both states-parties could carry out on-site inspections at each other's facilities in the United States and Soviet Union and at specified bases in Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, West Germany, and Czechoslovakia.

The INF Treaty’s Slow Demise

Since the mid-2000s, Russia has raised the possibility of withdrawing from the INF Treaty. Moscow contends that the treaty unfairly prevents it from possessing weapons that its neighbors, such as China, are developing and fielding. Russia also has suggested that the proposed U.S. deployment of strategic anti-ballistic missile systems in Europe might trigger a Russian withdrawal from the accord, presumably so Moscow can deploy missiles targeting any future U.S. anti-missile sites. Still, the United States and Russia issued an October 25, 2007, statement at the United Nations General Assembly reaffirming their “support” for the treaty and calling on all other states to join them in renouncing the missiles banned by the treaty.

Reports began to emerge in 2013 and 2014 that the United States had concerns about Russia's compliance with the INF Treaty. In July 2014, the U.S. State Department found Russia to be in violation of the agreement by producing and testing an illegal ground-launched cruise missile. Russia responded in August refuting the claim, and continues to maintain that it is not in violation of the INF Treaty. Throughout 2015 and most of 2016, U.S. Defense and State Department officials had publicly expressed skepticism that the Russian cruise missiles at issue had been deployed. But an Oct. 19, 2016 report in The New York Times cited anonymous U.S. officials who were concerned that Russia was producing more missiles than needed solely for flight testing, which increased fears that Moscow was on the verge of deploying the missile. By Feb. 14, 2017, The New York Times cited U.S. officials declaring that Russia had deployed an operational unit of the treaty-noncompliant cruise missile now known as the SSC-8. On March 8, 2017, General Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed press reports that Russia had deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that “violates the spirit and intent” of the INF Treaty.

The State Department’s 2017 annual assessment of Russian compliance with key arms control agreements alleged Russian noncompliance with the INF Treaty for the fourth consecutive year, and also listed new details on the steps Washington took in 2016 to resolve the dispute, including convening a session of the SVC, and providing Moscow with further information on the violation.

The report says the missile in dispute is distinct from two other Russian missile systems, the R-500/SSC-7 Iskander GLCM and the RS-26 ballistic missile. The R-500 has a Russian-declared range below the 500-kilometer INF Treaty cutoff, and Russia identifies the RS-26 as an intercontinental ballistic missile treated in accordance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The report also appears to suggest that the launcher for the allegedly noncompliant missile is different from the launcher for the Iskander. In late 2017 the United States for the first time revealed both the U.S. name for the missile of concern, the SSC-8, and the apparent Russian designation, the 9M729.

Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow is charging that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles.

Congress for the past several years has urged a more assertive military and economic response to Russia’s violation. The fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized funds for the Defense Department to develop a conventional, road-mobile, ground-launched cruise missile that, if tested, would violate the treaty. The fiscal year 2019 NDAA also included provisions on the treaty. Section 1243 states that no later than Jan. 15, 2019, the President would submit to Congress a determination on whether Russia is “in material breach” of its INF Treaty obligations and whether the “prohibitions set forth in Article VI of the INF Treaty remain binding on the United States.” Section 1244 expresses the sense of Congress that in light of Russia’s violation of the treaty, that the United States is “legally entitled to suspend the operation of the INF Treaty in whole or in part” as long as Russia is in material breach.

On Dec. 8, 2017 the Trump administration announced a strategy to respond to alleged Russian violations, which comprised of three elements: diplomacy, including through the Special Verification Commission, research and development on a new conventional ground-launched cruise missile, and punitive economic measures against companies believed to be involved in the development of the missile.

However, President Trump announced Oct. 20 that he would “terminate” the INF Treaty in response to the long-running dispute over Russian noncompliance with the agreement, as well as citing concerns about China’s unconstrained arsenal of INF Treaty-range missiles. Trump’s announcement seemed to take NATO allies by surprise, with many expressing concern about the president's plan. 

After repeatedly denying the existence of the 9M729 cruise missile, Russia has since acknowledged the missile but continues to deny that the missile has been tested or is able to fly at an INF Treaty-range.

On Nov. 30, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats provided further details on the Russian treaty violation. Coats revealed that the United States believes Russia cheated by conducting legally allowable tests of the 9M729, such as testing the missile at over 500 km from a fixed launcher (allowed if the missile is to be deployed by air or sea), as well as testing the same missile from a mobile launcher at a range under 500 km. Coats noted that “by putting the two types of tests together” Russia was able to develop an intermediate-range missile that could be launched from a “ground-mobile platform,” in violation of the treaty.

On Dec. 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States has found Russia in “material breach” of the treaty and will suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia does not return to compliance in that time. The official notice of the United States’ intent to withdraw would begin a six-month withdrawal period as allowed by the treaty. Though NATO allies in a Dec. 4 statement expressed for the first time the conclusion that Russia had violated the INF Treaty, the statement notably did not comment on Pompeo's ultimatum.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded Dec. 5 by noting that Russia would respond “accordingly” to U.S. withdrawal from the treaty, and the chief of staff of the Russian military General Valery Gerasimov noted that U.S. missile sites on allied territory could become “targets of subsequent military exchanges." On Dec. 14, Reuters reported that Russian foreign ministry official Vladimir Yermakov was cited by RIA news agency as saying that Russia is ready to discuss mutual inspections with the United States in order to salvage the treaty. The United States and Russia met two more times after this in January, first in Geneva, and then on the sidelines of a P5 meeting in Beijing, both times to no new result.

On Feb. 1, President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo announced separately that the following day, Feb. 2, the United States would suspension its obligations under the INF Treaty and also formally announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months. Shortly thereafter, Russian President Vladimir Putin also announced that Russia will be officially suspending its treaty obligations as well. 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Subject Resources:

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control Agreements at a Glance

June 2017

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107; Kingston ReifDirector for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: February 2019

Over the past four decades, American and Soviet/Russian leaders have used a progression of bilateral agreements and other measures to limit and reduce their substantial nuclear warhead and strategic missile and bomber arsenals. The following is a brief summary.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

SALT I

Begun in November 1969, by May 1972, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) had produced both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which limited strategic missile defenses to 200 (later 100) interceptors each, and the Interim Agreement, an executive agreement that capped U.S. and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) forces. Under the Interim Agreement, both sides pledged not to construct new ICBM silos, not to increase the size of existing ICBM silos “significantly,” and capped the number of SLBM launch tubes and SLBM-carrying submarines. The agreement ignored strategic bombers and did not address warhead numbers, leaving both sides free to enlarge their forces by deploying multiple warheads (MIRVs) onto their ICBMs and SLBMs and increasing their bomber-based forces. The agreement limited the United States to 1,054 ICBM silos and 656 SLBM launch tubes. The Soviet Union was limited to 1,607 ICBM silos and 740 SLBM launch tubes. In June 2002, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM treaty.

SALT II

In November 1972, Washington and Moscow agreed to pursue a follow-on treaty to SALT I. SALT II, signed in June 1979, limited U.S. and Soviet ICBM, SLBM, and strategic bomber-based nuclear forces to 2,250 delivery vehicles (defined as an ICBM silo, a SLBM launch tube, or a heavy bomber) and placed a variety of other restrictions on deployed strategic nuclear forces. The agreement would have required the Soviets to reduce their forces by roughly 270 delivery vehicles, but U.S. forces were below the limits and could actually have been increased. However, President Jimmy Carter asked the Senate not to consider SALT II for its advice and consent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, and the treaty was not taken up again. Both Washington and Moscow subsequently pledged to adhere to the agreement’s terms despite its failure to enter into force. However, on May 26, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said that future decisions on strategic nuclear forces would be based on the threat posed by Soviet forces and not on "a flawed SALT II Treaty.”

START I

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), first proposed in the early 1980s by President Ronald Reagan and finally signed in July 1991, required the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce their deployed strategic arsenals to 1,600 delivery vehicles, carrying no more than 6,000 warheads as counted using the agreement’s rules. The agreement required the destruction of excess delivery vehicles which was verified using an intrusive verification regime that involved on-site inspections, the regular exchange of information, including telemetry, and the use of national technical means (i.e., satellites). The agreement’s entry into force was delayed for several years because of the collapse of the Soviet Union and ensuing efforts to denuclearize Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus by returning their nuclear weapons to Russia and making them parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and START I agreements. START I reductions were completed in December 2001 and the treaty expired on Dec. 5, 2009.

START II

In June 1992, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin agreed to pursue a follow-on accord to START I. START II, signed in January 1993, called for reducing deployed strategic arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads and banned the deployment of destabilizing multiple-warhead land-based missiles. START II would have counted warheads in roughly the same fashion as START I and, also like its predecessor, would have required the destruction of delivery vehicles but not warheads. The agreement's original implementation deadline was January 2003, ten years after signature, but a 1997 protocol moved this deadline to December 2007 because of the extended delay in ratification. Both the Senate and the Duma approved START II, but the treaty did not take effect because the Senate did not ratify the 1997 protocol and several ABM Treaty amendments, whose passage the Duma established as a condition for START II’s entry into force. START II was effectively shelved as a result of the 2002 U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty.

START III Framework

In March 1997, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin agreed to a framework for START III negotiations that included a reduction in deployed strategic warheads to 2,000-2,500. Significantly, in addition to requiring the destruction of delivery vehicles, START III negotiations were to address “the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads…to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.” Negotiations were supposed to begin after START II entered into force, which never happened.

SORT (Moscow Treaty)

On May 24, 2002, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty) under which the United States and Russia reduced their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 warheads each. The warhead limit took effect and expired on the same day, Dec. 31, 2012. Although the two sides did not agree on specific counting rules, the Bush administration asserted that the United States would reduce only warheads deployed on strategic delivery vehicles in active service, i.e., “operationally deployed” warheads, and would not count warheads removed from service and placed in storage or warheads on delivery vehicles undergoing overhaul or repair. The agreement’s limits are similar to those envisioned for START III, but the treaty did not require the destruction of delivery vehicles, as START I and II did, or the destruction of warheads, as had been envisioned for START III. The treaty was approved by the Senate and Duma and entered into force on June 1, 2003. SORT was replaced by New START on February 5, 2011.

New START

On April 8, 2010, the United States and Russia signed New START, a legally binding, verifiable agreement that limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads deployed on 700 strategic delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs and heavy bombers), and limits deployed and nondeployed launchers to 800. The treaty-accountable warhead limit is 30 percent lower than the 2,200 upper limit of SORT, and the delivery vehicle limit is 50 percent lower than the 1,600 allowed in START I. The treaty has a verification regime that combines elements of START I with new elements tailored to New START. Measures under the treaty include on-site inspections and exhibitions, data exchanges and notifications related to strategic offensive arms and facilities covered by the treaty, and provisions to facilitate the use of national technical means for treaty monitoring. The treaty also provides for the continued exchange of telemetry (missile flight-test data on up to five tests per year) and does not meaningfully limit missile defenses or long-range conventional strike capabilities. The U.S. Senate approved New START on Dec. 22, 2010. The approval process of the Russian parliament (passage by both the State Duma and Federation Council) was completed Jan. 26, 2011. The treaty entered into force on Feb. 5, 2011 and will expire in 2021, though both parties may agree to extend the treaty for a period of up to five years. Both parties met the treaty’s central limits by the Feb. 4, 2018 deadline for implementation.

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements

Strategic Nuclear Arms Control Agreements
 SALT  I SALT IIINF TreatySTART ISTART IISTART IIISORT

New START

StatusExpiredNever Entered Into ForceIn Force*ExpiredNever Entered Into ForceNever NegotiatedReplaced by New STARTIn Force
Deployed Warhead LimitN/AN/AN/A6,0003,000-3,5002,000-2,5001,700-2,2001,550
Deployed Delivery Vehicle LimitUS: 1,710 ICBMs & SLBMs
USSR: 2,347
2,250Prohibits ground-based missiles of 500-5,500 km range1,600N/AN/AN/A700
Date SignedMay 26, 1972June 18, 1979Dec. 8, 1987July 31, 1991Jan. 3, 1993N/AMay 24, 2002April 8, 2010
Date Ratifed, U.S.Aug. 3, 1972N/AMay 28, 1988Oct. 1, 1992Jan. 26, 1996N/AMarch 6, 2003Dec. 22, 2010
Ratification Vote, U.S.88-2N/A93-693-687-4N/A95-071-26
Date Entered Into ForceOct. 3, 1972N/AJune 1, 1988Dec. 5, 1994N/AN/AJune 1, 2003Feb. 5, 2011
Implementation DeadlineN/AN/AJune 1, 1991Dec. 5, 2001N/AN/AN/AFeb. 5, 2018
Expiration DateOct. 3, 1977N/Aunlimited durationDec. 5, 2009N/AN/AFeb. 5, 2011Feb. 5, 2021**

*On Feb. 2, 2019, both the United States and Russia announced they were suspending their obligations to the treaty.

**New START allows for the option to extend the treaty beyond 2021 for a period of up to five years.

Nonstrategic Nuclear Arms Control Measures

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

Signed Dec. 8, 1987, the INF Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to verifiably eliminate all ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Distinguished by its unprecedented, intrusive inspection regime, including on-site inspections, the INF Treaty laid the groundwork for verification of the subsequent START I. The INF Treaty entered into force June 1, 1988, and the two sides completed their reductions by June 1, 1991, destroying a total of 2,692 missiles. The agreement was multilateralized after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and current active participants in the agreement include the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are also parties to the agreement but do not participate in treaty meetings or on-site inspections. The ban on intermediate-range missiles is of unlimited duration.

Both the United States and Russia have raised concerns about the other side’s compliance with the INF Treaty. The United States first publicly charged Russia with developing and testing a ground-launched cruise with a range that meets the INF Treaty definition of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km in 2014.

Russia denies that it is breaching the agreement and has raised its own concerns about Washington’s compliance. Moscow is charging that the United States is placing a missile defense launch system in Europe that can also be used to fire cruise missiles, using targets for missile defense tests with similar characteristics to INF Treaty-prohibited intermediate-range missiles, and is making armed drones that are equivalent to ground-launched cruise missiles. On Oct. 20, 2018 President Donald Trump announced his intention to “terminate” the agreement citing Russian noncompliance and concerns about China’s missiles, and on Dec. 4, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Russia in “material breach” of the treaty. The Trump administration provided official notice to the other treaty states-parties on Feb. 2, that it would both suspend its obligations to the treaty and withdraw from the agreement in six months—per the treaty's terms—and "terminate" the agreement. The administration has stated that it may reverse the withdrawal if Russia returns to compliance by eliminating its ground-launched 9M729 missile, which the United States alleges is the noncompliant missile which can fly beyond the 500-kilometer range limit set by the treaty. 

Presidential Nuclear Initiatives 

On Sept. 27, 1991, President George H. W. Bush announced that the United States would remove almost all U.S. tactical (nonstrategic) nuclear forces from deployment so that Russia could undertake similar actions, reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation as the Soviet Union dissolved. Specifically, Bush said the United States would eliminate all its nuclear artillery shells and short-range nuclear ballistic missile warheads and remove all nonstrategic nuclear warheads from surface ships, attack submarines, and land-based naval aircraft. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev reciprocated on Oct. 5, pledging to eliminate all nuclear artillery munitions, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles, and nuclear landmines. He also pledged to withdraw all Soviet tactical naval nuclear weapons from deployment. Under these initiatives, the United States and Russia reduced their deployed nonstrategic stockpiles by an estimated 5,000 and 13,000 warheads, respectively. However, significant questions remain about Russian implementation of its pledges, and there is considerable uncertainty about the current state of Russia’s tactical nuclear forces. The Defense Department estimates that Russia possess roughly 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons and the numbers are expanding. The United States maintains several hundred nonstrategic B61 gravity bombs for delivery by short-range fighter aircraft. 

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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Smith, Inhofe Clash on Nukes

Empowered House Democrats will challenge priorities favored by Senate Republicans.


January/February 2019
By Kingston Reif

The incoming chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees ended 2018 by trading blows on nuclear weapons policy, presaging what is poised to be a contentious fight between Democrats and Republicans on the issue during the 116th Congress.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) speaks to reporters about the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act on Capitol Hill July 11, 2018, as Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) looks on. In the new Congress, Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Smith is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) has long maintained that the United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs for its security and can reasonably afford. This has raised the ire of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has expressed strong support for the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) report and its emphasis on augmenting the role of nuclear weapons and developing new nuclear capabilities. (See ACT, March 2018.)

At a November event in Washington hosted by Ploughshares Fund, Smith called for putting U.S. nuclear policy on a different path by reducing the size and cost of the arsenal, renegotiating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), adopting a no-first-use policy, and forswearing new, low-yield nuclear weapons.

President Donald Trump has declared his intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty in February if Russia does not return to compliance with the agreement and has yet to decide whether to extend New START by up to five years as allowed by the treaty.

In response to Smith’s comments, Inhofe told reporters that rebuilding the nuclear arsenal “is the most important area of” upgrading the military.

“I don’t know why Smith or anyone else would single out nuclear modernization as an area to cut,” Inhofe said. “That allows someone who’s not otherwise a formidable opponent to destroy the United States of America.”

Smith quickly fired back, lamenting “that Senator Inhofe seems to want to…publicly question my intelligence and publicly question my ability to adequately lead the committee.”

As a result of the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Democrats gained 40 seats and retook control of the House of Representatives. As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Smith will have a platform to conduct aggressive oversight of the Trump administration’s nuclear policy and spending proposals, especially through the annual national defense authorization process.

The annual bill, which has been passed and enacted each year for 58 years in a row, establishes spending ceilings and legal guidelines for Defense Department programs and the activities conducted by the Energy Department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Smith has indicated that he plans to oppose continued funding to develop and field the two new, low-yield nuclear capabilities proposed by the NPR report. Those are a low-yield warhead option for submarine-launched ballistic missiles and a new sea-launched cruise missile.

In addition, Smith appears likely to question the rationale for developing new fleets of nuclear-armed air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) and intercontinental ballistic missiles and expanding the NNSA’s capability to develop new nuclear warheads.

Such actions by Smith would set up a clash with the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee, which will strongly support the Trump plans under Inhofe.

Although Smith and Inhofe will have considerable say over the direction of U.S. nuclear policy, congressional appropriators wield the most power over funding decisions.

During the first two years of the Trump administration, not only has the Republican-controlled Congress backed the administration’s hefty budget requests for nuclear modernization, but in some cases it has increased funding above the requested levels. (See ACT, November 2018.)

Congress largely supported the Obama administration’s spending plans as well, but not without controversy. For example, the Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee sought to scale back NNSA plans for the B61 mod 12 life extension program (LEP) in 2013 and block funding for the W80-4 ALCM warhead LEP in 2014. Both efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

While Smith and Inhofe were drawing their own personal battle lines, other lawmakers closed out 2018 by issuing additional partisan salvos in response to the Trump administration’s NPR and intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty.

In a Nov. 29 letter led by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), 25 Republican senators urged Trump to think twice before supporting an extension of New START due to Russia’s violation of several international agreements, the imbalance posed by Russia’s development and modernization of nuclear capabilities unlimited by arms control agreements, and the growth of China’s nuclear arsenal. The letter added “that continued funding of the U.S. strategic modernization program, including for low-yield warhead options, as proposed in your [NPR], is critical in the face of dangerous international security developments since the New START was ratified.”

Two weeks later, on Dec. 13, 26 Democratic senators called on the president to address Russia’s violations of the INF Treaty instead of unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement and for him to extend New START.

“A collapse of the INF Treaty and failure to renew New START would lead to the absence of verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970,” the letter said.

The Democratic senators added that the administration’s “proposed new types of nuclear weapons threaten the bipartisan consensus that investments in the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent and supporting infrastructure must be accompanied by pursuit of continued arms control measures.”

 

 

 

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

April 2019

Contact:  Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, (202) 463-8270 x104

Updated: April 2019

See Table 1: U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START

    On April 8, 2010, Russia and the United States signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The treaty requires the sides to limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 1,550 and fielded delivery platforms to 700. The treaty also permits the United States and Russia to conduct 18 annual on-site inspections of facilities operated by the other country. Biannual data exchanges indicate the current state of their strategic forces. For a factsheet on Russian nuclear forces, click here.

    Both the United States and Russia met these limits by the February 2018 deadline, and the limits will hold until February 2021. The United States declared that it had met its New START limits on Feb. 5. As of March 2019, the United States has 656 deployed strategic delivery systems, 1,365 deployed strategic warheads and 800 deployed and non-deployed strategic launchers.

    Under New START, the United States retains a deployed strategic force of up to 400 ICBMs, 60 nuclear-capable bombers, and 240 SLBMs.

    •  As of February 2018, the United States deploys 400 Minuteman III ICBMs, all with a single warhead, and an additional 54 non-deployed silo launchers of ICBMs that remain in a warm, operational status.

    •  Some bombers were converted to conventional-only missions (not accountable under New START), and 49 nuclear-capable bombers were deployed as of February 2018. Bombers are not on alert or loaded with weapons in peacetime, and New START counting rules allow each bomber to be counted as “one” deployed warhead, even though bombers can carry up to 16-20 nuclear weapons.

    •  The United States retains all 14 of its strategic nuclear submarines (SSBNs), although it reduced the number of SLBM launch tubes per SSBN from 24 to 20, for a total of 280 tubes across the entire fleet. Between two and four submarines are in dry dock at any given time. The United States deployed 203 submarine-launched ballistic missiles as of February 2018

    In addition to the treaty limit of 700 deployed systems, the treaty allows for 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers, and bombers. The United States retains around 454 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, up to 280 deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and up to 66 deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.

    The strategic forces that remain under the treaty are currently being upgraded or replaced. Over the 30 years, the administration plans to invest an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars to modernize the nuclear weapons complex and nuclear delivery systems. For more on U.S. nuclear modernization, see U.S. Nuclear Modernization Programs.

    Under New START, both sides release aggregate data on their stockpiles every six months. 

     

    Table 1: Deployed U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces Under New START 

    This table shows how the deployed U.S. strategic nuclear stockpile in 2017 and in 2018, when reductions under New START were completed.

    All figures are from official sources except for shaded warhead numbers, which are best estimates. New START counts each bomber as one warhead, even though bombers can carry many more.

     20172018
     

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    Delivery Vehicles

    Est. Warheads

    ICBMs

    Minuteman III

    399 
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    N/A

    400  

    (as of Feb. 2018)

    400

    SLBMs

    Trident II D5

    212
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    N/A

    203

    (as of Feb. 2018)

    901

    Strategic Bombers

    B-52H

    38
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    49

    36

    (as of Feb. 2018)

    49

    B-2A

    11
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    13 

    (as of Feb. 2018)

    Total Deployed

    660
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    1,393
    (as of Sept. 1, 2017)

    659

    (as of Sept. 2018)

    1,398

    (as of Sept. 2018)

    Strategic Arms Control and Policy

    Subject Resources:

    The Wrong Choice for National Security Advisor

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    Description: 

    Press release on the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor

    Body: 

    For Immediate Release: March 23, 2018

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

    (Washington, D.C.)—The United States already faces an array of complex and dangerous foreign policy challenges that require pragmatic decision and sober diplomatic engagement with American allies and foes alike.

    With the choice of John Bolton as his National Security Advisor, President Donald Trump has chosen someone with a record of a hostile attitude toward multilateral security and arms control agreements and effective international institutions designed to advance U.S. national security and international peace and security.

    Bolton's extreme views could tilt the malleable Mr. Trump in the wrong direction on critical decisions affecting the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and the strained U.S. relationship with Russia, among other issues.

    Bolton is a nonproliferation hawk, but he has a disturbing and bellicose record of choosing confrontation rather than dialogue, politicizing intelligence to fit his worldview, and aggressively undermining treaties and negotiations designed to reduce weapons-related security threats. 

    • Bolton has long advocated for bombing Iran instead of pursuing negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program and he has called on the United States to abrogate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is working to verifiably block Iran’s pathways to the bomb. 
    • In the early 2000s, Bolton was among those in the George W. Bush administration who opposed further dialogue with North Korea which allowed North Korea to advance its nuclear program and test nuclear weapons. More recently, has argued that the United States should launch a “preventive attack” on North Korea, which would result in a catastrophic war. His approach runs counter to Mr. Trump’s own stated policy of using sanctions pressure and diplomatic engagement, including a summit with Kim Jong-un, to halt and reverse North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
    • Bolton has repeatedly criticized the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, which is one of the few bright spots in the troubled U.S.-Russia relationship and continues to enjoy strong support from the U.S. military. Last year Bolton called the treaty “an execrable deal.”
    • While undersecretary of state for arms control and international security during the George W. Bush administration, Bolton cherry-picked the findings of intelligence community assessments of that country’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities, and was a key player in making the Bush administration’s flawed case for the war in Iraq—a war that Donald Trump has correctly ridiculed as a catastrophic American foreign policy blunder.

    If Bolton succeeds in imposing his worldview on Donald Trump’s improvisational and impulsive foreign policy approach, we could be entering in a period of crisis and confrontation.

    In particular, if Bolton convinces Trump to unilaterally violate the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May when the U.S. is due to renew sanctions waivers, it would not only open the door to the re-emergence of Iran as a nuclear weapons proliferation risk, but it would undermine President Trump’s very tentative diplomatic opening with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    In the next year or so, Trump will need to decide whether or not to engage in talks with Russia about extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021. Without the treaty, there would be no verifiable limits on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972.

    We can ill-afford two nuclear proliferation crises, as well as abandoning a key brake on the growing risks of renewed U.S. and Russian nuclear competition and arms racing. 

    Congress will need to play a stronger role to guard against further chaos and confusion in U.S. foreign policy, prevent the White House from blundering into unwise and catastrophic military conflicts, and to halt further degradation of the credibility of the United States as a responsible global leader.

    Country Resources:

    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

    Fact Sheet Categories:

    Remarks to the Maryland House of Delegates Rules Committee on Nuclear Weapons Launch Procedures

    Sections:

    Description: 
    Daryl Kimball offered the following testimony before the Maryland House of Delegates Rules Committee on Monday, March 5, 2018, regarding legislation introduced by Maryland delegates Queen (Montgomery Co.), Gibson (Baltimore City), and Gutierrez (Montgomery Co.).
    Body: 


    By Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director
    Arms Control Association
    March 5, 2018
    Annapolis, Maryland

    Good afternoon. I want to commend Delegates Queen, Gibson, and Gutierrez for introducing House Joint Resolution 12, which:

    … “calls upon Maryland’s Congressional delegation to take all necessary steps to establish a system of checks and balances with regard to the first use of nuclear weapons and to ensure that the President of the United States shall no longer have the sole and unchecked authority to launch nuclear weapons, except in circumstances of retaliation.”

    At this very moment, the United States and Russia each deploy massive strategic nuclear arsenals, approximately 1,550 bombs on each side. Each side possesses thousands more nonstrategic warheads and warheads in reserve. These arsenals are far in excess of what it would take to decimate the other and far more that is required to deter a nuclear attack.

    Executive Director Daryl Kimball testifies before the Maryland House of Delegates Rules Committee on legislation urging its congressional delegation to support limits on presidential nuclear launch authority. (Photo: Maryland General Assembly)Worse still, each side maintains a significant portion of its land and sea-based missile forces on a prompt launch posture to guard against a “disarming” first strike.

    As a result, there are roughly 800 U.S. nuclear warheads – all of which are far more powerful than the weapons that destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – that can be launched within about 15 minutes of an order by the president and the president alone.

    In most scenarios, the president would have just minutes to listen to the list of retaliatory options and decide whether or not to order one of the nuclear strike plans. No cabinet secretary, adviser, or military official has the authority to override the president’s decision. Congress currently has no say in the matter.

    Current U.S. nuclear policy also allows for the possible use of nuclear weapons first, or in response to a non-nuclear attack on the U.S. or our allies, such as in a conflict on the Korean peninsula.

    Continuing to vest such destructive power in the hands of one person and to maintain a prompt-launch posture is undemocratic, irresponsible, unnecessary and untenable.

    Cavalier and reckless statements from President Donald Trump about nuclear weapons use and threatening and boastful comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin about his country’s nuclear retaliatory capabilities underscore the risks of a system that puts the authority to launch nuclear weapons in the hands of these individuals.

    Defenders of the status quo argue that altering the current system would deprive the president of the ability to respond quickly in a crisis—including by using nuclear weapons first in response to a non-nuclear attack—and undermine the credibility of deterrence.

    Such arguments ignore the fact that throughout the history of the nuclear age, there have been several incidents in which false signals of an attack have prompted U.S. and Russia officials to consider, in the dead of the night and under the pressure of time, launching nuclear weapons in retaliation.

    The reality is that this “launch-under-attack” policy is unnecessary because U.S. nuclear forces and command-and-control systems could withstand even a massive attack. Given the size, accuracy, and diversity of U.S. forces, the remaining nuclear force would be more than sufficient to deliver a devastating blow to any nuclear aggressor.

    In addition, retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first is unnecessary and risky. Given the overwhelming conventional military edge of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify—legally, morally, or militarily—the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat.

    As then-Vice President Joe Biden said in public remarks in January 2017: “Given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats—it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary. Or make sense.”

    Congress and the executive branch can and should take a number of steps to reduce these dangers:

    • Requiring that a decision to use nuclear weapons be made by more than one person. This could include the president, vice president, secretaries of state and defense, and perhaps one or more designated members of Congress, such as the speaker of the House or Senate majority leader.
    • Prohibiting the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) have introduced bipartisan legislation the "Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017" that would put this policy into place.
    • Eliminating the requirement to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles under attack, which would increase the time available to consider the possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies.
    • Declaring that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack. Congressman Adam Smith and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced H.R. 4415 to establish a “No First Policy” for nuclear weapons.
    • Clarify that only Congress can authorize U.S.-initiated military action against North Korea, which would likely result in a nuclear exchange, and urge the administration to “avoid actions that could contribute to a breakdown in talks, and continue to search for confidence-building measures that are conducive to dialogue,” as state in bipartisan legislation introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 4837/S. 2016).

    Your support for Maryland House Joint Resolution 12 can help push Congress to re-examine and revise nuclear decision making so that fate of millions in not decided by one person in the span of a few minutes.

    Since 2001, Daryl G. Kimball has served as the executive director the independent, non-partisan Arms Control Association and publisher of the monthly journal, Arms Control Today. The Association is a national membership organization established in 1971 to provide information and analysis on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and to promote practical policy solutions to address the risks they pose.

    The Trump Administration’s ‘Wrong Track’ Nuclear Policies

    Why the new Nuclear Posture Review doesn’t make the country safer. 


    March 2018
    By Lynn Rusten

    Public opinion pollsters often ask, “Is America moving in the right direction, or is it on the wrong track?” When it comes to nuclear policy, the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) decidedly puts the country on the wrong track in that it fails to lower the risk that nuclear weapons will be used, to increase strategic stability, to reduce the chances of miscalculation, and to ensure our national security at reasonable cost.

    Further, it puts the country on the wrong track to maintain U.S. global leadership on nonproliferation and arms control. It also puts the United States on the wrong track by discounting the role of diplomatic and nonmilitary tools in countering nuclear threats and potential adversaries.

    Increasing Reliance on Nuclear Weapons

    Four successive Republican and Democratic administrations since the end of the Cold War had sought to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. This NPR makes a dangerous and unjustified U-turn by expanding the role of nuclear weapons and the purposes for which they could be used, making a case for their enduring contribution to national security, failing to uphold reduced reliance as a desired goal, and elevating the contribution of U.S. forward-based nuclear weapons in Europe to the security of NATO.

    Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan (center), State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon Jr. (left), and Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette brief reporters on the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review at the Pentagon on February 2. (Photo: Kathryn E. Holm/DoD)Expanding the role of nuclear weapons. Like the 2010 Obama administration NPR report1, this one states that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons “in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners.”2 It redefines “extreme circumstances,” however, to include not only nuclear attacks but also significant non-nuclear strategic attacks, including but not limited to “attacks on the 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.”

    This is a wrong-headed departure from the 2010 NPR. It dangerously lowers the threshold for nuclear use against a range of potential non-nuclear threats, including cyberattacks, and thereby raises the risk of miscalculation and the possibility that nuclear weapons will be used, particularly if other countries adopt the same policy. Under this policy, a cyberattack could lead to options for a nuclear response being presented to a president who would have to decide in a compressed time frame with potentially incomplete information who did it and for what purpose. Conversely, if Russia or China were to adopt a similar policy, the United States could be at risk of nuclear attack as a result of inaccurate attribution or miscalculation due to differing perceptions of what constitutes a strategically significant cyberattack meriting a nuclear response. There is also the question of whether the use of a nuclear weapon would ever be judged a proportionate response to a cyberattack under international law.

    Further, the new NPR underscores that nuclear weapons will continue to play a critical role in deterring nuclear attack and in preventing large-scale conventional warfare between nuclear armed states for the foreseeable future because non-nuclear forces alone “do not provide comparable deterrence effects” and “do not adequately assure many allies and partners.”

    In contrast, the 2010 NPR deemed that “the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners,” adding that the United States had already reduced and would continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks. Although noting “there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring” a conventional, chemical or biological weapons attack, the previous NPR committed to working to establish conditions under which sole purpose—a policy to threaten nuclear use only in response to a nuclear attack—could be safely adopted. It affirmed the United States could provide deterrence and reassurance for allies at lower nuclear-force levels and with reduced reliance on nuclear weapons, taking into account not only the security environment but also unrivaled U.S. conventional military capabilities and improvements in missile defenses. It committed to strengthening conventional capabilities and reducing the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.

    Diluting the negative security assurance. For non-nuclear-weapon states, the 2018 and 2010 NPR reports offer an identical negative security assurance: “The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” The new NPR, however, adds a caveat so broad it risks undermining the very purpose of the assurance, which is to assure non-nuclear-weapon states that they will not be subject to nuclear attack and thus have no incentive to acquire nuclear weapons. It “reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies and U.S. capabilities to counter that threat”; the 2010 NPR caveat was limited to adjustment warranted by “the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capabilities to counter it.”

    Questionable declaratory policy on nuclear terrorism. The 2018 NPR breaks new ground with a threat to use nuclear weapons to deter or punish nuclear terrorism.

    The United States will hold fully accountable any state, terrorist group, or other non-state actor that supports or enables terrorist efforts to obtain or employ nuclear devices. Although the role of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear terrorism is limited, for effective deterrence our adversaries must understand that a terrorist nuclear attack against the United States or its allies and partners would qualify as “an extreme circumstance” under which the United States could consider the ultimate form of retaliation.3

    Implementation of this policy raises difficult questions of attribution and responsibility. If an insider in one of the U.S. national labs were to provide the Islamic State group with nuclear materials for a dirty bomb, would Russia be justified in attacking the United States at all, let alone with a nuclear weapon? The logic and value of this policy is not obvious.

    Elevating the role of U.S. forward-based nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Europe. The latest NPR reverses the decades-long movement by the United States and NATO to reduce the relevance and number of U.S. forward-based nuclear weapons in NATO’s deterrence and defense posture, in particular going significantly beyond current NATO policy to assert that these weapons contribute to the supreme guarantee of alliance security.4 The NPR report’s wording foreshadows a potentially divisive reopening of painstakingly negotiated NATO nuclear policy language in the run-up to the July 2018 summit in Brussels.

    The 2010 NPR committed to retain the capability to forward-deploy U.S. nuclear weapons on tactical fighter bombers and heavy bombers, without presuming what NATO would decide about future deterrence requirements (e.g., maintaining U.S. weapons in Europe). These weapons are primarily political symbols of U.S. commitment to NATO. They have virtually no military utility, and the cost-benefit assessment of keeping them in multiple European locations is unpersuasive given threats from political instability and terrorism. Rather than instigate a fight in NATO to elevate their role, the United States should be removing nuclear weapons from harm’s way, particularly in Turkey, where political instability, deteriorating relations with the United States, terrorism, and war with the Syrian Kurds underscore the risks of keeping nuclear weapons reportedly based 70 miles from the Syrian border.

    Calling for New Types of Nuclear Weapons Systems

    The NPR goes in the wrong direction by seeking to add new “nonstrategic” nuclear weapons capabilities to the already formidable U.S. arsenal. Rejecting the 2010 NPR report pledge of “no new nuclear capabilities,” it identifies a “regional deterrence capabilities gap” that must be addressed by two new types of low-yield nuclear weapons—one to be deployed on a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and the other a new nuclear sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM).

    An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is launched during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., September 5, 2016. The NPR calls for replacement of all three legs of the nuclear triad, including fielding the Minuteman III replacement, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, beginning in 2029.  (USSTRATCOM courtesy photo)Citing a “dramatic deterioration of the strategic environment,” the NPR asserts the need for these new weapons in order to enhance the flexibility and responsiveness of U.S. nuclear forces. The report posits that these new capabilities will make deterrence more credible against regional aggression and the threat of limited first use, for instance from Russia, by giving the president an expanding range of limited and graduated options to credibly deter Russian nuclear or non-nuclear strategic attacks. It claims these capabilities will “raise not lower” the threshold for nuclear use and are not intended to enable nuclear war-fighting.

    To quote The New York Times editorial board, this argument is “insane.”5 First, the United States has a robust, flexible nuclear deterrent, including low-yield options. To suggest the current U.S. nuclear arsenal does not provide a sufficient deterrent to Russia or any other nation is preposterous.

    Second, new low-yield nuclear weapons would not “raise the bar” for nuclear use; they would lower it because they increase the contingencies and planning for use and fuel the illusion that a use of nuclear weapons could remain limited and not escalate into a large-scale nuclear exchange. As former Secretary of State George Shultz recently testified, “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon. You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there.”6

    Third, it is disingenuous to deem a low-yield warhead on an SLBM a nonstrategic nuclear weapon. Nuclear warheads are neither strategic nor nonstrategic; that nomenclature refers to their delivery vehicle. A low-yield nuclear warhead on an SLBM is still a strategic nuclear weapon. To underscore the point, when an SLBM is launched from a submarine, how would an adversary know to expect one “small” low-yield weapon? Why would it not assume the attack was the leading edge of a full-scale strategic nuclear attack?

    Fourth, resurrecting nuclear SLCMs reverses the 25-year trajectory set by President George H.W. Bush, who removed nuclear weapons from surface ships and nuclear-powered attack subs in 1991, and President Barack Obama’s 2010 NPR, which retired nuclear SLCMs and the capacity to redeploy them on attack subs. Co-mingling nuclear and conventional capabilities at sea is costly and operationally complex and introduces risks of miscalculation and likelihood of use. If a dual-capable SLCM were launched, how would an adversary know whether it was conventional or nuclear?

    Rather than compelling positive changes in Russian behavior as the 2018 NPR report intimates, pursuit of nuclear SLCMs is more likely to stimulate Russia to deploy more nuclear weapons at sea and more missiles on land that violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russian investments in new intermediate-range strike capabilities appear driven by perceptions of vulnerability to U.S. and NATO prompt-strike and missile defense capabilities. Compounding Russia’s perceived vulnerabilities will prompt more countermeasures, not submission. By what logic should the United States fuel an incipient arms race by pursuing nuclear weapons systems it does not need?

    These “supplemental” capabilities add to the already unachievable $1.2 trillion Obama plan for modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal and infrastructure over the next 30 years. As General Frank Klotz, recently retired administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, observed, the capacity of the nuclear weapons complex to refurbish and dismantle nuclear warheads and components is already overstretched.7 A more responsible NPR would have strived to rationalize and prioritize the program of record inherited from the Obama administration by considering what elements could be cancelled, postponed, or modified to put the nuclear modernization program on a more stable, affordable, and politically sustainable footing, with a focus on survivable forces intended primarily if not exclusively for deterrence of nuclear attacks.

    Abdicating U.S. Global Leadership

    In contrast to the 2010 NPR, the 2018 review puts almost exclusive emphasis on nuclear weapons and military means and insufficiently promotes diplomacy and nonmilitary instruments of national power to address national security threats. It overstates the degradation in the threat environment since 2010 and fails to explain why more types of and uses for nuclear weapons is an effective means to address threats that have legitimately worsened. These include increased Russian assertiveness, the growing North Korean threat, Chinese actions in South China Sea, and the spread of new technologies, including cyberabilities.

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, at the 8th Army Operational Command Center at Camp Humphreys, south of Seoul, on November 7, 2017. The Nuclear Posture Review makes no mention of the role diplomacy could play in addressing the North Korean nuclear threat. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)The new NPR report fails to make a convincing case that the United States is slipping from a position of nuclear parity with Russia and facing a regional deterrence gap necessitating new nuclear capabilities, or that the United States is newly threatened by China’s still significantly smaller nuclear arsenal. It fails to explain why all other nuclear-armed countries except Russia will not be deterred by a nuclear force that is primarily sized and postured to deter Russia, whose arsenal is orders of magnitude larger than any other potential adversary, including China. It undersells what the 2010 NPR report termed the “unrivaled conventional capabilities” of the United States—capabilities that are still unrivaled and contribute immensely to deterrence and the defense of our nation, allies, and partners.

    Against that backdrop, the 2018 NPR heralds a retreat from U.S. global leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. Although it reaffirms commitment to the NPT and supports the International Atomic Energy Agency and mechanisms to constrain, deny, and sanction proliferators, it falls short in advancing a positive strategy for addressing proliferation threats through diplomacy and pursuing steps related to the disarmament pillar of the NPT. This is a stark contrast with the 2010 NPR, which envisioned a comprehensive approach to reducing nuclear dangers and pursuing the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, including through practical steps of further nuclear reductions with Russia, pursuit of a fissile material cutoff treaty, and ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

    The new NPR report is silent on multilateral nuclear arms control, other than to reject CTBT ratification while upholding, with caveats, the testing moratorium.8 On bilateral arms control with Russia, it notes fairly that the current environment makes bilateral progress extremely challenging, but offers no proposals to improve the environment, failing even to endorse a five-year extension of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

    The latter is an easy call: As long as Russia is complying with New START, it is strongly in the U.S. interest to extend the treaty’s limits and most importantly its robust and intrusive verification regime, providing essential long-term predictability and insight into each other’s strategic nuclear forces. Russia’s violation of and mutual recriminations over the INF Treaty make this especially important. Extension is not a favor to Russia; it would be a mutually beneficial and stabilizing step as the United States and Russia seek to address bilateral problems and rebuild trust.

    The policies in the NPR will further erode strategic stability, notwithstanding the report’s stated desire for stable relations with Russia and China. While calling for nuclear dialogue and transparency with China, it offers no strategy for what do to about the erosion of strategic stability with Russia other than to rev up the engine for an arms race. It is devoid of any consideration of how the nuclear policies and forces it prescribes will be perceived by other countries, particularly Russia and China; how they might react and thus affect strategic stability; and how U.S. national security will be affected if they and other countries adopt similar policies and postures.

    The overarching problems with the nonproliferation and arms control element of the NPR are what it portends for U.S. policy and how it will be received internationally. Substantively, it offers no strategy and few proposals for reducing nuclear dangers, encouraging nuclear reductions, peacefully advancing nonproliferation, and sustaining international adherence to and support for the NPT regime. It fails to acknowledge the positive contribution of diplomacy in the Iran nuclear agreement and makes no mention of the role diplomacy could play in addressing the North Korean nuclear threat. It fails to reaffirm, in contrast to the 2010 NPR, that it is in the interest of all nations to extend forever the now 73-year record of nuclear non-use.

    The new nuclear weapons prohibition treaty, criticized in the NPR, is largely an outgrowth of the frustration and disappointment that has grown among non-nuclear-weapon states with the pace of progress by the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom on their NPT Article VI disarmament commitment.9 With the international community increasingly polarized, this NPR adds fuel to the fire and offers little to work with for allies and partners who have joined the United States in advocating a practical step-by-step approach as the most viable path toward verifiable disarmament. Rather than leading and helping to unify the international community with a positive and actionable nonproliferation agenda, the United States will find itself on the defensive trying to explain a nuclear policy likely perceived as evidence of a failure to uphold its end of the NPT bargain.

    Conclusion

    The goal of U.S. nuclear policy should be to prevent the use of nuclear weapons by deliberate act, miscalculation, or accident and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials to states and terrorists. Achieving these goals requires the United States to marshal all instruments of national power and to cooperate effectively with the international community.

    The Trump administration’s NPR takes the country in the wrong direction by increasing reliance on nuclear weapons and expanding the circumstances contemplated for their use; calling for new types of nuclear weapons systems that will provoke or exacerbate an arms race and will raise the risks of miscalculation and use; failing to set forth a realistic nuclear force posture and modernization plan that emphasizes stability and survivability and is affordable, executable, and politically sustainable; failing to articulate a positive strategy for U.S. leadership in nonproliferation and practical steps in furtherance of U.S. obligations under NPT Article VI; and failing to set forth a comprehensive strategy for addressing nuclear and regional threats through diplomacy and other nonmilitary tools, along with strengthening conventional defenses and ensuring a safe, secure, and reliable deterrent.

    The American public and Congress have a responsibility to consider whether this new nuclear posture is taking the country in the right direction and, if not, to encourage a course correction. Lawmakers should advance an alternative vision for U.S. nuclear policy and global nonproliferation leadership, deny funding for the dangerous and unnecessary new types of nuclear weapons systems proposed, and reassess the $1.2 trillion cost, feasibility, and necessity of the full range of nuclear modernization programs proposed for the next three decades. The Department of State should be given the opportunity to put more meat on the bones of a nuclear policy and strategy largely devoid of diplomatic initiatives.

    The damage to U.S. global leadership on nuclear nonproliferation as a result of the plans and policies in the NPR is real, and the stakes are far too high to allow these dangerous policies to go unchallenged. The time to start steering toward a better and safer track for U.S. nuclear policy and posture is now.

    ENDNOTES

    1 Office of the Secretary of Defense, "Nuclear Posture Review Report," April 2010, https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/defenseReviews/NPR/2010_Nuclear_Posture_Review_Report.pdf

    2 Office of the Secretary of Defense, “Nuclear Posture Review,” February 2018, p. 21, https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF (hereinafter 2018 NPR report).

    3 Ibid, p. 68.

    4 The 2018 NPR report states, “The United States will make available its strategic nuclear forces, and commit nuclear weapons forward-deployed to Europe, to the defense of NATO. These forces provide an essential political and military link between Europe and North America and are the supreme guarantee of Alliance security.” 2018 NPR report, p. 36. Current NATO policy as reflected in the July 2016 Warsaw summit communiqué states, “The strategic forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States, are the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies…. NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies, in part, on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe.” “Warsaw Summit Communiqué Issued by the Heads of State and Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Warsaw 8-9 July 2016,”
    press release (2016) 100 (July 9, 2016), para. 53.

    5 “False Alarm Adds to Real Alarm About Trump’s Nuclear Risk,” The New York Times, January 13, 2018.

    6 Connor O’Brien, “Schultz Warns Congress Against Low-Yield Nuclear Weapons,” Politico, January 25, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/25/nuclear-weapons-george-schultz-369450.

    7 Aaron Mehta, “As Trump Seeks New Nuke Options, Weapons Agency Head Warns of Capacity Overload,” Defense News, January 23, 2018, https://www.defensenews.com/space/2018/01/23/as-trump-seeks-new-nuke-options-weapons-agency-head-warns-of-capacity-overload/.

    8 The 2018 NPR report rejects Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratification; supports the International Monitoring System; commits to maintaining the testing moratorium, “unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. arsenal” or to meet “severe geopolitical challenges”; and encourages others to declare or maintain a moratorium.

    9 China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are the five states recognized under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as nuclear-weapon states. NPT Article VI requires all parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”


    Lynn Rusten is a senior adviser at the Nuclear Threat Initiative. From 2011 to 2014, she was senior director for arms control and nonproliferation on the National Security Council staff.

    The New U.S. Nuclear Strategy is Flawed and Dangerous. Here’s Why.

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    In December 2016, President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” prompting condemnation in the United States and around the world. Those concerns, it turns out, were well justified.

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    Volume 10, Issue 3, February 15, 2018

    In December 2016, President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability” and later told MSNBC that he would “outmatch” and “outlast” other potential competitors in a nuclear arms race. The comments mostly prompted condemnation in the United States and around the world and raised concerns about the direction the president would take U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

    U.S. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Paul Selva (L), arrives at a closed briefing before the Senate Armed Service Committee January 23, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a closed briefing on the Nuclear Posture Review. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Those concerns, it turns out, were well justified.

    The Defense Department released Feb. 2 a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the fourth since the end of the Cold War. The NPR is a strategy document that outlines the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategy, the plans for maintaining and upgrading nuclear forces, and the overall U.S. approach to nuclear arms control and nonproliferation.

    Though there are, not surprisingly, elements of continuity with previous reviews, the proposed changes in the new NPR are significant and align with Trump’s more aggressive and impulsive nuclear notions. The document incorporates wish list items long-advocated by parts of the nuclear weapons establishment and breaks with past U.S. efforts to reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons worldwide in several key areas.

    It is true that the international security environment is less favorable than it was in 2010 when the Obama administration conducted its NPR. Some of the other nuclear-armed states have not been responsible nuclear citizens. Technology is advancing in new and unpredictable ways. And the existing U.S. nuclear arsenal— originally built during the Cold War-era and refurbished since—is aging.

    But these developments do not justify the approach advanced in this NPR.

    The review proposes to expand the circumstances under which Trump might consider the use of nuclear weapons, including in response to so-called “non-nuclear strategic threats” and calls for the development of new, more usable nuclear weapons capabilities.

    The review also walks back from the longstanding U.S. leadership role on arms control and nonproliferation at a time when the global nuclear weapons risk reduction enterprise is facing significant challenges.

    Taken together, these and other changes in the Trump Nuclear Posture Review rest on faulty assumptions, are unnecessary and unlikely to achieve their stated goal, set the stage for an even more unsustainable rate of spending on U.S. nuclear weapons, would accelerate global nuclear competition, and could increase the risk of nuclear conflict in the years ahead.

    Wider Range of Nuclear Use Options

    Instead of deemphasizing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy as previous NPRs have done, the Trump NPR envisions a greater role for the weapons against a wider range of threats. Trump administration officials claim that their NPR is consistent with the 2010 Obama NPR on declaratory policy. Both in tone and substance, it is not.

    The 2018 NPR says that the first use of nuclear weapons will only be considered under “extreme circumstances” to defend the “vital interests” of the United States and its allies (p. 21). The 2010 NPR used identical language. Unlike the previous administration, however, the Trump administration defines extreme circumstances more broadly 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 document does not explicitly define “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks” but at various points says it could include chemical and biological attacks, large-scale conventional aggression, and cyberattacks. The review references the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks over 30 times.

    The 2010 NPR, on the other hand, described “a narrow range of contingencies” in which nuclear weapons may play a role in deterring "a conventional or CBW attack.” There was no reference to cyberattacks or attacks on nuclear command, control, and communications capabilities anywhere in the 2010 document.

    “This opens questions,” writes former Pentagon official Rebecca Hersman, “about whether the United States would consider using” nuclear “weapons more readily than it might have in the past or in response to attacks that are less than fully catastrophic.”

    In addition, the 2010 NPR stated that the United States “will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or our allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.”

    Indeed, by the end of his second term of office President Obama believed that goal had effectively been achieved. As then Vice President Joe Biden put it in remarks delivered in January 2017: “given our non-nuclear capabilities and the nature of today’s threats, it’s hard to envision a plausible scenario in which the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States would be necessary. Or make sense. President Obama and I are confident we can deter and defend ourselves and our allies against non-nuclear threats through other means.”

    In contrast, the new NPR explicitly rejects the idea of “sole purpose” (p. 20). The review extols ambiguity and proposes two new low-yield nuclear capabilities to “expand the range of credible U.S. options for responding to nuclear or non-nuclear strategic attack” (p. 55).

    The Trump NPR diverges from the Obama NPR on declaratory policy in still other ways.

    The 2010 review updated and strengthened the U.S. pledge of nonuse against non-nuclear-weapon states that are in good standing with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations, even in the unlikely event that one of those states attacks the United States or its allies with chemical or biological weapons. This revised negative security assurance expanded the security benefits for non-nuclear-weapon states of good faith membership in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime.

    The 2018 NPR reiterates this pledge but undermines the value of this assurance by retaining “the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies and U.S. capabilities to counter that threat” (p. 21).

    It is notable that President Trump argued in his 2018 State of the Union address that “we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else.”

    This approach represents a clear shift away from past U.S. strategy and practice that aims to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. military and foreign policy. The 2010 NPR stated that the “fundamental role” of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack against the United States or its allies, not “any act of aggression.”

    The proposed changes in the 2018 NPR on the role of nuclear weapons are real. And they are dangerous.

    Threatening nuclear retaliation to counter new kinds of “asymmetric” attacks would lower the threshold for nuclear use, increase the risks of miscalculation, and make it easier for other countries to justify excessive roles for nuclear weapons in their policies. Such threats are also unlikely to be proportional and therefore would be difficult to make credible. For example, though a kinetic or nonkinetic attack on U.S. nuclear command and control capabilities, which support both nuclear and non-nuclear missions, could have major repercussions, such an attack is unlikely to result in any human casualties.

    Given the overall conventional superiority of the U.S.-led alliance system, it is in the U.S. interest to raise, not lower, the bar for nuclear use. A more prudent approach to countering potential non-nuclear attacks on U.S. infrastructure and command and control capabilities would include strengthening the resilience of these systems against cyberattack and ensuring the availability of credible symmetric and asymmetric conventional response options.

    New, “More Usable” Nuclear Weapons

    The Trump NPR calls for the development of new low-yield nuclear capabilities, primarily to counter Russia’s alleged willingness to use nuclear weapons first on a limited basis early in a conventional conflict or crisis (also known as “escalate to deescalate”). The review warns that Russia maintains a much larger arsenal of "non-strategic" nuclear weapons than the United States and is upgrading those weapons.

    To attempt to correct Russia's purported "mistaken impression" that its non-strategic forces could "provide a coercive advantage in crises or at lower levels of conflict," the review proposes to supplement the U.S. arsenal with the following capabilities:

    • the near-term deployment of a new low-yield, W76-1 nuclear warhead variant for the D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and
    • the longer-term development of a new nuclear sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM).

    To counter Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the review also seeks a new (for the time being conventional) ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that would, if tested and deployed, put the U.S. in violation of the treaty.

    The shortcomings in the rationale for additional low-yield options are too numerous to count.

    For starters, the claim that Russia has lowered the threshold for the first use of nuclear weapons is hotly disputed. While Russia appears to rely more heavily on nuclear weapons for its security than the United States due to its overall conventional inferiority and concerns about U.S. missile defenses, is violating the INF Treaty, and developing new types of nuclear weapons, Russia’s official nuclear doctrine does not support the claim that it has an “escalate to deescalate” doctrine. As Jeffrey Edmonds, a former director for Russia on the National Security Council, has written, “If the Russian leadership decides to use nuclear weapons in a limited way to gain escalation control, then it is likely doing so as a last measure, reacting from a perception that the Russian state is about to fall.”

    In fact, what is far more likely to prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to perceive that he could get away with limited nuclear use is past and future statements by President Trump questioning the value of NATO and U.S. alliances. Deploying additional low-yield nuclear options won’t solve this political problem.

    In any event, the review fails to produce compelling evidence that Russia might believe the United States would be self-deterred from using the weapons in its current arsenal (conventional or nuclear) in response to a limited Russian nuclear attack. Speaking of the weapons in its current arsenal, Washington already possesses hundreds of low-yield warheads as part of the air-leg of the triad and plans to invest over $150 billion in the coming decades to ensure these warheads can penetrate the most advanced air defenses. New low-yield options are a solution in search of a problem.

    The NPR argues that additional low-yield options are “not intended to enable” nuclear war-fighting “[n]or will it lower the nuclear threshold” (p. 54). But this assertion ignores the fact that the stated purpose is to make their use “more credible” in the eyes of U.S. adversaries, which means that they are meant to be seen as “more usable.”

    The belief that a nuclear conflict could be controlled is dangerous thinking. The fog of war is thick, the fog of nuclear war would be even thicker. Such thinking could also have the perverse effect of convincing Russia that it could get away with limited nuclear use without putting its survival at risk.

    Many military targets are in or near urban areas. It has been estimated that the use of even a fraction of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces could lead to the death of tens of millions of people in each country. An all-out exchange would kill hundreds of millions and produce catastrophic global consequences with adverse agricultural, economic, health, and environmental consequences for billions of people.

    No country should be preparing to wage a “limited nuclear war” that neither side can guarantee would remain “limited.” Rather, as Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev declared in 1985, today’s Russian and U.S. leaders should recognize that “a nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.”

    Even if one buys the rationale that more low-yield options are needed, the two new nuclear capabilities proposed by the review are deeply flawed.

    Given that U.S. strategic submarines currently carry SLBMs armed with higher-yield warheads, how would Russia know that an incoming missile armed with a low-yield warhead wasn’t actually armed with high-yield warheads? The answer is it wouldn’t, thereby increasing the risks of unintended escalation.

    Deploying nuclear SLCMs on U.S. surface ships and/or attack submarines also raises several concerns. The potential for miscalculation would increase since an adversary would be unable to determine if an incoming missile is armed with a nuclear or conventional warhead. And the Navy is unlikely to be pleased with the additional operational and financial burdens that would come with nuclearizing the surface and/or attack submarine fleet.

    The NPR claims that development of a new nuclear SLCM, which would take nearly decade, could serve as a bargaining chip in future arms control negotiations with Russia. The document states that if Moscow “returns to compliance with its arms control obligations, reduces its non-strategic nuclear arsenal, and corrects its other destabilizing behaviors, the United States may reconsider the pursuit of a SLCM” (p. 55). This requirement is so sweeping that it lacks any realistic negotiating value. It’s also not clear how additional nuclear options would be useful bargaining chips given Russia’s concerns about overall NATO conventional superiority.

    Ultimately, attempting to mimic Russia by developing more low-yield options would play into Moscow's hands, since it can match NATO in the nuclear sphere. The main deterrence challenge Russia poses to the alliance is not nuclear. That means the United States should continue to invest in maintaining its overall conventional edge, buttress defenses as needed on NATO’s eastern flank where Russia has local superiority, and more effectively defend against and respond to Russia's use of disinformatin, propoganda, and cyber tools to undermine western democratic institutions. At the same time, it should seek opportunities to engage with Moscow to reduce tensions and the risk of renewed military competition.

    Undermining the Taboo Against Nuclear Testing

    The NPR asserts that “the United States does not support the ratification of the [Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty] CTBT” (p. 63) even though the United States and 182 other nations have signed the treaty, and even though there is no technical need to resume nuclear testing. No reason or justification for rejecting the goal of CTBT ratification is provided.

    The review says that “the United States will continue to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Preparatory Committee” and “the related International Monitoring System and the International Data Center.” It also calls upon other states not to conduct nuclear testing and states that “[t]he United States will not resume nuclear explosive testing unless necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the U.S. arsenal.”

    But the NPR proclaims that the United States will remain ready to “resume nuclear testing if necessary to meet severe technological or geopolitical challenges.”

    The NPR also seeks “to reduce the time required to design, develop, and initially produce a warhead, from a decision to enter full-scale development.” An annual National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) report released in November 2017 shortens the previous readiness timeline to conduct a “simple [nuclear] test” explosion from 24 to 36 months down to six to 10 months, undermining the global nuclear testing taboo. This shortened timeline means that should the United States decide to conduct a “simple test” explosion, it should be prepared to do so within six to 10 months.

    While the NNSA report and the NPR both reaffirm that “there is no current requirement to conduct an underground nuclear test,” the administration’s hasty rejection of CTBT ratification, combined with the NNSA’s revised testing readiness timeline suggests the Trump administration only wants to reap the benefits of the treaty, including the data from the monitoring system, while leaving the door open to resuming nuclear testing.

    A Nuclear Force That is Excessive and Unsustainable

    The Trump NPR’s proposals to develop new nuclear capabilities come on top of the existing nuclear triad recapitalization program of record that the Trump administration inherited from its predecessor. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the Obama-era plans would cost over $1.2 trillion (excluding the impact of inflation) over the next 30 years.

    Massive spending on nuclear weapons on the scale and schedule envisioned by the 2018 NPR will pose a major threat to other high priority national security programs, to say nothing about Trump’s pledge to expand the non-nuclear military. What makes the growing cost to sustain the nuclear mission so worrisome for military planners is that costs are scheduled to reach a peak during the mid-2020s and overlap with large increases in projected spending on conventional weapon system modernization programs. Though the recent budget deal agreed to in Congress has improved the near-term outlook for defense spending, the Pentagon is likely to face continuing budget pressure in the future.

    The NPR acknowledges that the upgrade costs are “substantial” but attempts to downplay them by claiming that nuclear weapons will “only” consume more than 6.4 percent of the defense budget (p. 52). This projection does not include the major costs that must be borne by NNSA to upgrade nuclear warheads and their supporting infrastructure.

    The review offers no plan to pay for the rising price tag to upgrade the triad and the coming bow wave of non-nuclear modernization costs. It also fails to examine more pragmatic, cost-effective alternatives.

    The force outlined in the NPR calls for maintaining and upgrading U.S. nuclear forces at levels that exceed the deterrence requirements outlined by the Pentagon in 2013, which determined that the deployed strategic arsenal could be reduced by up to one-third below the limits set by the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) of 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems. Even if the United States maintains its arsenal at the New START levels, it can do so at a significantly lower cost, according to the CBO.

    Planning for an Arms Race

    President Trump said Feb. 12 that the United States is “creating a brand new nuclear force...[W]e’re gonna be so far ahead of everybody else in nuclear like you’ve never seen before.” The NPR comports with the president’s stated objective by laying the groundwork to provide “capabilities needed to quickly produce new or additional weapons” beyond the 4,000 warheads currently in the active U.S. nuclear stockpile (pgs. 59-64).

    One measure of the scale of the plan for building “new or additional weapons” is given in the commitment to “[p]rovide the enduring capability and capacity to produce plutonium pits [nuclear warhead cores] at a rate of no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030” (p. 62). No basis is offered for this minimum capacity target.

    The NPR also calls for options to expand the arsenal by using old warheads, including “modifying warheads,” assessing “the potential for retired warheads and components to augment the future hedge stockpile,” and reducing “the time required to design, develop, and initially produce a warhead, from a decision to enter full-scale development” (p. 63).

    In addition, the review proposes to accelerate the life extension programs for the W78 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and W80-1 air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) warheads. It leaves open the option of whether to pursue Obama-era plans to develop common, interoperable warheads for ICBMs and SLBMs. The new NPR also appears to want to keep indefinitely the B83-1 warhead (the only remaining U.S. megaton-class warhead). The previous plan had been to retire it once confidence in the B61-12 had been achieved, if not sooner. In 2013 NNSA estimated that the cost to life extend the B83 would be $4 to $5 billion.

    The NPR says that the Pentagon will undertake research and development “for advanced nuclear delivery system technology and prototyping capabilities,” including “on the rapid development of nuclear delivery systems, alternative basing modes, and capabilities for defeating advanced air and missile defenses” (p. 40). This sweeping language suggests the possible pursuit of research and development on mobile ICBMs and hypersonic missiles for nuclear weapons delivery.

    These buildup plans go far beyond those proposed by the Obama administration, which married its proposal to develop a more responsive nuclear infrastructure with pledges to reduce the size of the stockpile of nondeployed hedge warheads and accelerate the rate of dismantlement of retired warheads. The Trump NPR does not reiterate these commitments.

    The NPR gives short shrift to the additional financial and operational demands preparing for an arms race will put on an already overburdened NNSA. Though NNSA would receive a significant budget increase in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request, such a buildup is unlikely to be executable.

    According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office report issued last year, the “NNSA’s plans to modernize its nuclear weapons do not align with its budget, raising affordability concerns.” And former NNSA administrator Frank Klotz said in a Jan. 23 interview just two days after leaving office that the agency is “working pretty much at full capacity... And you can draw your conclusion [on the Trump NPR proposals] from that.”

    Nevertheless, the NPR makes an open-ended commitment to unleashing a nuclear weapon buildup whenever the U.S. sees fit. It is a clear incitement to other weapon states to do the same, and a clear violation of the NPT obligation to end the arms race and pursue effective disarmament measures.

    Undermines U.S. Arms Control and Nonproliferation Leadership

    In his January 2018 State of the Union address, Trump dismissed the idea of the elimination of nuclear weapons — a goal embraced by American President’s since the beginning of the nuclear age— as some “magical moment in the distant future.”

    President Trump added Feb. 12: “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.”

    Not surprisingly, the new Trump NPR does not proactively seek negotiations to limit nuclear arms.

    Arms control only gets a brief mention at the end of the NPR and it’s a generally dismissive mention at that. The document passively states that “the United States will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit” and negotiations that “advance U.S. and allied security, are verifiable, and enforceable.” No previous nuclear arms control agreement has included enforcement measures.

    In contrast, a major and important theme throughout the 2010 NPR was that “by reducing the role and numbers of U.S. nuclear weapons…we can put ourselves in a much better position to persuade our NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] partners to join with us in adopting the measures needed to reinvigorate the nonproliferation regime and secure nuclear materials worldwide.”

    The 2018 NPR does state that the “United States will continue efforts to create a more cooperative and benign security environment” (p. 24) and that “the United States will continue to pursue the political and security conditions that could enable further nuclear reductions” (p. 95).

    But the review offers next to nothing in the way of proposals to advance particularly U.S.-Russian arms control efforts and address the growing challenges to strategic stability more broadly. As Michele Flournoy, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, put in a Jan. 18 interview:

    “One of the things that’s missing in this NPR is a focus on nuclear diplomacy. How are we going to get to our goals of reducing the dangers, reducing arsenals, reducing the role of nuclear weapons, what’s the strategy there? There’s virtually no discussion of the arms control component of U.S. nuclear policy in this document.”

    “The NPR essentially abandons the United States' leadership role in nonproliferation and arms control that have marked every president since Dwight Eisenhower,” noted Tom Countryman, former Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, in a Jan. 23 Arms Control Association briefing on the NPR.

    On the one bilateral strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty that is currently in force—New START—the NPR does not commit its possible extension, despite the obvious benefits.

    New START has improved strategic stability, predictability, and transparency, and verifiably trimmed the still oversized U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. At a time when U.S.-Russian relations remain strained, New START, which is set to expire in 2021, serves an even more important role in reducing nuclear risks.

    The next step should be for Presidents Trump and Putin to agree to extend the treaty for another five years–to 2026. If New START is allowed to lapse in 2021 with nothing to replace it, there would be no limits on U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear forces for the first time since 1972. The United States would have fewer tools with which to verify the size and composition of the Russian nuclear stockpile.

    Flawed Assumptions

    Several of the arguments offered in the NPR for expanding the diversity and role of nuclear weapons in U.S. policy are highly misleading.

    • The Trump plan is centered on the mistaken belief that the United States is falling behind other countries in the fielding of a reliable and credible nuclear arsenal and it claims that there are gaps in our ability to “credibly” threaten to wage nuclear war. In reality, there is no “nuclear missile gap.” The United States is not falling “behind.” The U.S. arsenal is the most potent in the world and is more than intimidating enough to deter nuclear attack by others—and if ever used—kill hundreds of millions of people.
    • The Trump nuclear plan falsely suggests that U.S. leadership on nuclear disarmament has not contributed to nonproliferation efforts or enhanced U.S. global standing. In reality, the commitment of the nuclear-armed states to halt the arms race and achieve nuclear disarmament established in the NPT has been crucial to preventing proliferation and was essential to the non-nuclear weapon states decision extend the NPT indefinitely in 1995.
    • The Trump nuclear plan argues that the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been “polarizing” and “could damage the nuclear nonproliferation regime.” In reality, it is nuclear weapons, and U.S. threats of “fire and fury,” that are dangerous and divisive. This more aggressive U.S. nuclear posture gives other nuclear actors a cynical excuse to justify their ongoing nuclear upgrade efforts and build up their own nuclear capabilities. The “Nuclear Ban Treaty,” on the other hand, is a good faith effort by more than 130 states to meet their responsibility as signatories of NPT to help end the arms race. Steps, like the Ban Treaty, aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic nuclear weapons use are necessary and should be welcomed.

    Bottom Line

    Despite elements of continuity with previous administrations, the Trump NPR is not a status quo document.

    Rather than develop new nuclear roles and capabilities and put additional strain on an already wobbly global nuclear order, the United States needs to show more responsible nuclear leadership.

    It will be up to Congress, U.S. allies, the international community, and ultimately the U.S. public to ensure that Trump’s radical nuclear plans do not become the tipping point toward a new and more dangerous nuclear era.—DARYL G. KIMBALL, executive director, and KINGSTON A. REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

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