Getting to Zero Update

The Obama Administration was hoping for the U.S. Senate to ratify the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) now that the U.S. mid-term elections are over. If the treaty is not brought to the floor before the end of the year, then prospects for the treaty dim in a Senate where more members will be reluctant to hand the President a foreign policy achievement, and votes in favor of the treaty will be more difficult to muster.

NATO is about to introduce its new Strategic Concept, the first one since 1999, at the Alliance’s Summit in Portugal on November 19-20. The mission in Afghanistan was expected to dominate the summit, but the issues of the remaining U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, and plans for a NATO missile defense will lurk and will likely carry into next year. Tehran and the Permanent 5 members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany have agreed to resume their discussions over Iran’s nuclear program on December 5th.

BASIC and Getting to Zero

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BASIC and Getting to Zero

BASIC and the UK Top Level Group held an event on Trident renewal in October, and the summary notes are available on BASIC’s website. Earlier in the same month BASIC co-sponsored a workshop in Ankara in collaboration with USAK, the Arms Control Association and the Hamburg Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy on NATO’s nuclear posture. A summary of the meeting is here. BASIC joined with NATO Watch, Bertelsmann Stiftung, and ISIS Europe to hold the second NATO Shadow Summit in Belgium on November 15-16. Anne Penketh, our Washington Program Director, travelled to Cairo in mid-October where she addressed a regional nuclear security conference on the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. BASIC also held an off-the-record event on Iran’s nuclear program with keynote speaker Robert Einhorn, U.S. State Department Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC in early November.

Recent BASIC Publications

  • Options for arms control to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in NATO
    Amb. Peter Gottwald, BASIC, IFSH and ACA Nuclear Policy Paper No. 1, November 2010
  • Polish and Central European Priorities on NATO’s Future Nuclear Policy
    Lukasz Kulesa, BASIC, IFSH and ACA Nuclear Policy Paper No. 2, November 2010
  • Current NATO Nuclear Policy
    Rt Hon the Lord Browne of Ladyton (Des Browne), BASIC, IFSH and ACA Nuclear Policy Paper No. 3, November 2010

Also see: Talk Works interviews Paul Ingram on Trident, October 2010.



The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) faces more challenges after the U.S. mid-term elections. With the Republicans gaining six seats from the Democrats in the Senate, the Obama Administration feels more pressure to ensure that the treaty is ratified before the end of the year, as echoed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a joint op-ed in the Washington Post. Although Democrats will still hold a majority in the Senate next year, they will need even more Republican votes to meet the two-thirds requirement for ratification.

In order to win Republican support for this treaty that would limit the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 on each side, Administration officials have been negotiating with party Whip Senator Jon Kyl (Arizona) to meet his demands for more funding for the nuclear weapons complex. Although negotiations were continuing as of the writing of this report, the Administration agreed to an additional $4.1 billion for the nuclear weapons complex on top of previously made commitments. Some key Republicans have also claimed that they still worry that the treaty will limit the United States’ options for missile defense and may entail too much cooperation with Russia.

Senator Kyl issued a press statement on November 16 saying that he doubts there will be time in the Senate schedule to bring the treaty up for a floor vote before the end of the year and that some substantive issues remain unresolved. Two days later, ten of the newly elected Republican senators backed Kyl’s call for delaying a vote until next year not only because of time constraints or specific issues, but because they “believe it would be improper for the Senate to consider the New START Treaty or any other treaty in a lame duck session prior to January 3, 2011,” which they wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada). The letter was obtained by The Cable.

On November 18, the White House assembled a bi-partisan group of former and current high-ranking officials to help make the case for urgently ratifying the treaty, including Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft, William Perry, and Sam Nunn, and also Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (Democrat-Massachusetts), Secretaries Clinton and Gates, and Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others. A couple of days earlier, Senator Lugar openly lamented the hesitancy of his Republican peers to act on the treaty, saying, “This is a situation of some national security peril.”

A CNN/ Opinion Research Corporation conducted a poll of 1,014 U.S. adults during the period November 11-14, and found that 73 percent support ratifying the New START agreement.

The Russian Foreign Affairs Commission has withdrawn its recommendation for ratifying New START according to Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov. The decision is said to come on the back of the U.S. mid-term results with many in the Russian government believing that if the “lame duck” session fails to approve the treaty then it will not happen at all. During a separate meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, President Obama reiterated his commitment to the treaty’s passage. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russian leaders are still hoping for a synchronized ratification of the treaty in both his country and the United States.

Further Reading

  • The Pause Button: If the Senate kills New START, is Obama’s Russia policy dead, too?
    Dmitri Trenin, Foreign Policy, November 17, 2010
  • Nuclear Treaty: U.S. and Russia to reduce nuclear arsenal
    Associated Press interactive guide, November 2010
  • Chu-ing Over Plans for the Nuclear Complex
    Stephen Young, All Things Nuclear, blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists, November 8, 2010
  • From Nuclear Deterrence to Universal Security
    Evgeniy Primakov, Igor Ivanov, Evgeniy Velikhov, Mikhail Moiseev, opinion in Izvestiya (Moscow edition), October 15, 2010

NATO and Nuclear Weapons

NATO members are preparing for the Lisbon Summit on November 19-20, where they will discuss and release a new Strategic Concept to replace the current one from 1999, as well as releasing a summit Declaration. Despite a year-long review process, the document was expected to contain only a modest change in substance.

Although the gathering of heads of state will focus predominantly on the Alliance’s mission in Afghanistan, the issues around nuclear weapons and missile defense may also prove to be divisive and many issues could be left for a Strategic Posture Review next year. Germany and France were reportedly continuing a disagreement over emphasis on missile defense and nuclear posture in the last moments before the summit. A number of Allies, most prominently Germany, would like to achieve Alliance-wide agreement to remove the 150-200 B-61 thermonuclear gravity (“tactical”) bombs that the United States deploys in Europe – in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, as part of the Alliance’s nuclear sharing arrangements. Like other NATO-member governments, however, the German government has backed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in calling for NATO to continue holding nuclear deterrence as one of the cornerstones of its strategic doctrine. “As long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, we need to have these capabilities,” affirmed German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Beyond NATO’s tactical nuclear weapons, U.S. and UK strategic nuclear forces are also committed to the Alliance’s nuclear mission.

NATO spokesperson James Appathurai commented that “the allies look at tactical nuclear weapons in the context of Russia. While NATO has cut its tactical weapons to the low hundreds, Russia still has thousands of these things. That’s of concern to allies.” The draft version of the new Strategic Concept appear to make any further TNW withdrawals conditional upon successful negotiations with Russia around greater transparency and their relocation further east and deeper into Russian territory.

Further Reading

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates conference held in Hiroshima

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureates conference, held in Hiroshima, Japan, focused on the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The laureates in attendance called for a “universal treaty” that would ultimately ban nuclear weapons, and criticized justifications for the retention of nuclear weapons, such as those based on deterrence, as being “totally outdated.” U.S. President Barack Obama, who was awarded the prize in 2009 partly for his support for the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, did not attend the conference.

Documentary on the threat from nuclear weapons
For a list of showings, see:


United States

Fifty inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) went offline on October 23 at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, a story which was first reported by The Atlantic. A faulty underground computer cable connection is thought to have possibly caused the disruption in communication between launch control and the missiles. Air Force personnel contend that they retained the ability to launch the missiles and monitor their security during that period. However, Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, claimed that “The recent failure reinforces the need for the United States to maintain 450 ICBMs to ensure a strong nuclear defense. If new START had been in place on Sunday, we would have immediately been below an acceptable level to deter threats from our enemies.” A source within the government who requested anonymity, said that 50 ICBMs going offline for 45 minutes would not significantly affect the U.S. nuclear deterrent: “Even if we go down to START levels, we’re talking about 1,550 deployed weapons. And nothing in START prevents us from upgrading that part of the nuclear deterrent — something DoD [Department of Defense] has already said they plan to do.” According to Bruce Blair, former ICBM missileer and now leader of Global Zero, the incident should instead raise more concerns about the potential for the unauthorized launch of nuclear weapons. He calls for the United States, and Russia, to relax the alert status of their missiles to help reduce these dangers.

The Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have formally criticized the United States for performing a subcritical nuclear test in Nevada, which occurred on September 15. The test involved bombarding plutonium just short of the point that would trigger a nuclear explosion, and thus was not a breach of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which the United States has signed and followed, but not ratified. It was the United States’ first subcritical test since August 2006. Nagasaki governor Hodo Nakamura criticized the test as “deeply deplorable” as he had hoped that the Obama Administration would take a leading stance in trying to reduce nuclear weapons globally. Mayor Akira of Hiroshima also wrote to President Obama, saying that the test “runs counter to the spirit of the CTBT, which you are working to ratify.”

Further Reading

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has delayed the final decision to begin construction of its follow-on nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet until 2016. Prime Minister David Cameron said “We can extend the life of the (existing) Vanguard-class submarines so the first replacement submarine isn’t needed until 2028.” Renewing Trident has become more contentious given cuts elsewhere in the government’s budget and came at a time when the government announced an eight percent overall reduction in defense spending over the next four years. Spending issues overshadowed accompanying announcements also related to British efforts to reduce nuclear postures in support of disarmament commitments and global non-proliferation. The government confirmed plans to reduce the stockpile of operational warheads from less than 160 to fewer than 120 (with a reduction in the numbers deployed on each patrolling submarine from 48 to 40) and changed the country’s declaratory policy to become similar to the U.S. position announced in the 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, in which non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT and in compliance with their treaty obligations were guaranteed that they would never be targets for a nuclear strike.

The United Kingdom and France have signed defense cooperation agreements, including a treaty on sharing the development and use of nuclear weapons facilities. The official purpose of the facilities is to assure the reliability and safety of nuclear weapons, though they also provide the capability to develop new warheads or capabilities. The two allies have set up a rota system to protect their own data in order to ensure compliance with Article I of the NPT (which outlaws warhead technology transfer) and to reassure the United States on the security of their warhead designs. The agreement is to last 50 years. They will also begin next year an examination of possible cooperation on nuclear submarine technology and components. Cameron said that the United Kingdom and France were “natural” defense partners and that the agreement was “unprecedented and shows a level of trust never equaled in our history.” The treaties await ratification by the two countries’ parliaments.

Further Reading


After two recent successful tests, the Bulava submarine ballistic missile is scheduled to undergo one more test in 2010 and about a half dozen more in 2011. Russia has yet to make a final decision on whether to add the 8,000 km-range nuclear-capable missile into its active arsenal. The defense ministry claimed that it can overcome any missile defense system in the world, a pointed reference to the U.S.-led push for deploying territorial missile defenses. Russian officials were blaming previous Bulava test failures on problems with parts rather than on an overall design flaw.

The Kremlin has agreed to build Venezuela’s first nuclear power plant. Leaders from both countries stressed the peaceful nature of the deal. The deal is expected to be unpopular in Washington, but U.S. President Barack Obama noted that “Venezuela has rights to peacefully develop nuclear power.” It will be more than a decade before any nuclear power is available in Venezuela.


Iran and the P5+1 group (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany) will hold discussions on December 5. Although the date has been settled, the location has become a point of contention for the meeting, the first one of its kind in over a year. Iran suggested Turkey, but the P5+1, represented by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in recent agenda setting negotiations, has offered Austria or Switzerland as the only options, which will include Ashton and Iranian lead negotiator Dr. Saeed Jalili, with the P5 +1 countries represented by lower-ranking negotiators.

The scope of the meeting has also been a point of strain. Iranian officials have indicated that they do not want to talk about the nuclear program, which is the very reason the P5+1 want to hold the meeting. “We will not be talking with the Western party about the nuclear energy issue in this round of the negotiations,” according to Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. President Ahmadinejad recently said that Iran’s right to enrich is not negotiable, but that it would be willing to participate in negotiations to address international tensions. Iran has repeatedly emphasized that enriching uranium for peaceful purposes is part of Iran’s “inalienable” nuclear rights. Iran has also demanded that the P5+1 group address its opinion on the alleged nuclear arsenal in Israel. Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaei, submitted a resolution to urge the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israeli possession of nuclear weapons.

The United States continued its emphasis on the sanctions regime against Iran. “We will continue to expose the elaborate structures and tactics Iran uses to shield its shipping line from international scrutiny” said Stuart Levey, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. However, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Ali Babacan, mentioned that Turkish firms are “free to make their own decisions” about whether to comply with the sanctions initiative of the United States. Iran is reportedly setting up banks in Iraq and Malaysia in order to work around sanctions.

While visiting the United States earlier in November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated his belief that a credible threat by the United States to use military force is the most effective deterrent against Iran. Netanyahu described the Iranian nuclear program as the “greatest danger facing the world.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry held a committee meeting on October 25, in order to discuss contingency plans for when “the Iranians have nuclear weapons.” “The government’s position is that all attempts have to be made to prevent Iran from going nuclear,” said one senior Israeli official.

At the end of October, Iran loaded 163 fuel rods in the nuclear power plant at Bushehr with the assistance of Russia, according to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano stated that the loading activities at Bushehr were being monitored, and that the activities were in accordance with Iran’s Safeguards Agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacted to the launch of the power plant: “Our problem is not with their reactor at Bushehr. Our problem is with their facilities at places like Natanz and their secret facility at Qom and other places where we believe they are conducting their weapons program.” She added, “They are entitled to peaceful civilian nuclear power. They are not entitled to nuclear weapons.”

Further Reading

North Korea

It has been reported that North Korea is taking further steps to enhance nuclear weapon capabilities. According to the report released by the Institute for Science and International Security on October 8, North Korea is processing highly enriched uranium and resumed the construction of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in order to produce plutonium. A senior presidential aide of South Korea pointed out that the nuclear program in the North is “evolving at a very fast pace” and reaching a “very alarming” level. On October 20, United States and South Korean intelligence detected movements of personnel and vehicles which suggest another possible nuclear test. South Korean Unification Minister, Hyun In-Taek, stated that the government “is watching closely because possibilities cannot be completely ruled out,” but rejected the likelihood of an immediate nuclear test. On October 31, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told China that Washington expects Beijing to press North Korea not to take “provocative steps” against South Korea.

Further Reading


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan agreed to “accelerate” talks on a civil nuclear cooperation pact when they met on October 25. Previously, Japan allowed nuclear exports only to the states that were parties to the NPT or under IAEA safeguards. However, the United States’ civil nuclear agreement with India and the 2008 decision to allow India to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group has encouraged other countries to explore striking similar deals. Tokyo wants to reserve its ability to halt nuclear cooperation if Delhi conducts another nuclear test. Japan has also encouraged India to join the International Monitoring System that is related to the CTBT and to sign the treaty itself. Meanwhile, a group of fifty Japanese civil groups strongly criticized the government’s negotiations with India.

Further Reading


During a U.S. state visit to India, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Singh affirmed the “need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrine” in a joint statement. Although India has nuclear weapons, it is not a member of the NPT and is not a recognized nuclear weapon state. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon state representative endorsed talks between the five nuclear powers and states with nuclear weapons which are not members of the treaty.

The statement also welcomed the advancement of the controversial U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. The issue raised intense discussions between the two parties before President Obama’s visit. India signed the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage in an effort to ease tensions with the United States on the civil nuclear partnership, but the convention would not address all of the concerns companies have with the legislation that India passed in August which assigns legal liabilities on nuclear suppliers as well as operators in the event of an accident.

Further Reading


At a joint press conference on October 23 with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Clinton refused to respond to a question on a potential U.S. nuclear deal with Pakistan, an indication that the United States has no plans to pursue an agreement similar to the one it has with Pakistan’s arch rival India. “We are not in any discussion with the Pakistanis on civil nuclear cooperation,” affirmed Frank Ruggiero, U.S. Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Following the Pakistan-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, the Pakistani Foreign Minister stressed that Pakistan is fully qualified for a civil nuclear technology transfer deal with the United States. He added, “Pakistan has the technology as well as technicians and can run a civil nuclear program efficiently having thirty-five years’ experience without any major incident.”

Further Reading

Missile Defense

Ahead of the NATO Summit in Lisbon, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reaffirmed his belief that NATO requires a territorial missile defense shield. “My conclusion is clear. We need to protect our populations and territories from the threat posed by the proliferation of missiles. NATO can do it.” Allies are being tasked with deciding whether NATO should join up with the U.S.-led-missile defense system, which is currently outlined by the Obama Administration’s “Phased Adaptive Approach,” with the intention of developing a system to protect NATO European populations.

Moreover, NATO will consider prospects for cooperation with Russia. Russia worries that a European system could eventually neutralize its nuclear deterrent, but has agreed to participate with NATO in a six-month joint study on missile defense cooperation. The US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Philip Gordon said “It’s absolutely clear that we want to do this cooperatively with Russia … there are lots of different options on the table once Russia signals interest in participating.” The Russian defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov indicated that Russia is pleased with the Obama Administration’s decision to scrap the plans of the Bush Administration regarding a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. He continued that the Russian government wishes to “ensure that Russia participates as an equal partner.”

Members within the Alliance have also expressed their skepticism about the territorial NATO missile defense system and general worries about the potential for growing costs during a time of austerity. France has raised concerns that missile defense efforts could be made at the expense of nuclear deterrence, and Turkey has said that it does not want Iran to be singled out as the reason for deployment of missile defenses, and wants a certain amount of control over the operation of such a system that would include coverage if its territory.

Further Reading

Additional Resources

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