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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Moving the World Back from the Brink
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Arms Control NOW


Inside the Arms Control Association
March 2024

Last month speaking in Geneva, UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a stark warning: 

“The nuclear shadow that loomed over humanity last century has returned with a vengeance.  The nuclear risk is higher than at any moment since the depths of the Cold War.”

“Some statesmen regularly imply that they are fully prepared to unleash nuclear hell — an outrageous threat that the world must condemn with clarity and force.  And the vital norms and standards against the proliferation, testing, and use of nuclear weapons are being eroded,” he said.

Putin’s war on Ukraine and his nuclear threat rhetoric have significantly increased the risk of nuclear war. Russia continues to rebuff the U.S. offer for talks on nuclear risk reduction and a new nuclear arms control framework first proposed at ACA’s 2023 annual meeting. The last remaining treaty capping the massive Russian and U.S. nuclear stockpiles is due to expire in less than 700 days. 

Meanwhile, as China is building up its smaller but still deadly nuclear force, some members of Congress and national security insiders are pushing to increase the size and diversity of the U.S. arsenal to counter two "near-peer" nuclear adversaries. 

Unless Washington and Moscow agree to maintain the current ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads set by the New START agreement past 2026, a costly, dangerous three-way arms race looms on the horizon.

This week, in response to these and other nuclear dangers, The New York Times launched a special series of must-read editorials about the nuclear danger and why the world is now “At the Brink.” In the introduction to the series, the paper’s opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury says: “It’s Time to Protest Nuclear War Again.” We agree. 

Of course, here at the Arms Control Association and Arms Control Today, we have been doing that and much more for many years … raising awareness of the dangers, delivering authoritative information, holding policy-makers accountable, and advancing effective solutions that move us back from the nuclear brink.

Image from “Plan A: How a Nuclear War Could Progress” in the July/August 2020 issue of Arms Control Today.

 

This year is pivotal for many reasons, and we’ve been working behind the scenes to move things in a better direction. For example: 

  • Next week, a new congressional resolution will be introduced in the House and the Senate that condemns Russia’s dangerous nuclear threat rhetoric and calls for sustained presidential efforts to engage Russia and China on nuclear arms control. We’ll share details in the coming days about how you can help this effort.

  • On March 18, the UN Security Council will convene for a special session on nuclear disarmament led by Japan. This session will help to shine the spotlight on the responsibility of all states under the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to “engage in good faith negotiations to halt the arms race and on disarmament.” 

In the months ahead, we will also be making our case on Capitol Hill and beyond about why we must reject calls for a costly U.S. nuclear buildup.

A world without effective nuclear arms control and disarmament is much more dangerous and unstable. We must act now to guard against the further degradation of the norms against nuclear weapons use, threats of use, and testing, and to prevent an unconstrained global arms race that has no winners. 

As President Biden noted in a 2022 message: “For 50 years, ACA has educated citizens around the world to help create broad support for U.S.-led arms control and nonproliferation achievements .. [a]nd we continue to count on the valuable contributions of the Arms Control Association.”

Please stay involved, speak up, and consider helping ACA’s efforts with a special gift.


ACA’s New Senior Analyst on Nuclear Disarmament

Xiaodon LiangXiaodon Liang joins the ACA team this month to fill the vacancy created when Shannon Bugos left ACA for the State Department earlier this year. He will focus on U.S. nuclear weapons policy, the budget, arms control and disarmament policy issues, and U.S. strategic relations with Russia and China.

Xiaodon holds a PhD in International Relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. During his graduate studies, he also contributed to the World Peace Foundation's work on analyzing the arms trade. Before that, Xiaodon was a research assistant with the political and security affairs team at the National Bureau of Asian Research where he focused on maritime and nuclear issues. He began his career as an intern with ACA in 2011. 


On the Hiroshima Watch Auction Controversy

Last month, a Boston-area auction house sold a “melted wristwatch” from the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bombing. The winning bid for the item, which was “found” by a British soldier deployed to the city in the aftermath of the attack, was $31,113.

In an essay published on International Day for Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education (March 5), our ArmsControlNOW blog, ACA research assistant, Shizuka Kuramitsu wrote: 

“Some, including sellers and bidders, perceived this auction as an opportunity to collect a rare historic treasure that symbolizes the dawn of the nuclear era. For other people, this watch is an artifact of a tragic memory. They imagine what happened to the owner; the catastrophic atomic explosion that froze the time of the watch; and the blast, heat, radiation, and trauma suffered by tens of thousands of innocent civilians.”

“The perception gap on the meaning of the watch auction highlights the importance of ongoing public education about the catastrophic humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons,” Shizuka concludes. Read the full essay, “Hiroshima A-Bomb Watch Auction: Seeing Under the Clouds” on our website.


Webinar, March 26: “CWC Compliance Challenges”

Although all member states of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) have completed the required destruction of their declared chemical weapons stockpiles, there remain compliance challenges. Ten years after the bulk of Syria’s massive chemical arsenal was destroyed under international supervision, gaps, and inconsistencies in its declaration remain unresolved. Credible allegations have recently arisen that Russia is using banned riot control agents against Ukrainian infantry.

ACA and the Chemical Weapons Convention Coalition will host a high-level group of panelists Tuesday, March 26 to explore these challenges, including Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, former Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; Fadel Abdulghany, head of the Syrian Human Rights Network; and Ambassador Susannah Gordon with the New Zealand Embassy at The Hague.

Please register to attend the webinar by Friday, March 22. 


ACA’s Annual Meeting, "Moving Back from the Nuclear Brink," Set for June 7

Please save the date for our 2024 Annual Meeting, Friday, June 7, 2024, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. ACA members, friends, colleagues, and special guests will gather for a one-day conference that will feature keynote speakers and expert panels addressing the most pressing arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament challenges.

We are developing the program now.  Likely topics addressed will include: 

  • How Much Is Enough? Looming Decisions on U.S. Nuclear Force Size and Spending

  • Toward a More Effective and Humane U.S. Arms Transfer Policy   

  • The Role of Congress in Reducing the Nuclear Danger

  • Future Pathways on Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament

Registration for the event will open later this month. Look here for further details and updates.


Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs Forum April 24: “Do We Need More Nukes?”

If you are in the Baltimore-Washington area, Daryl Kimball will debate two members of the Congressional Commission on the U.S. Strategic Posture at an event at the World Trade Center in downtown Baltimore at 6:00 p.m. April 24. More information is available here.

For a preview, see Daryl’s column from Arms Control Today: “Why We Must Reject Calls for a U.S. Nuclear Buildup.”


Updated Board Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

After a consultative process, The ACA Board of Directors issued a February 24  statement, “Arms Control Association Statement of Principles on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”, affirming  ACA’s commitment to pursue our work based on the premise that “effective decision-making in the arms control and disarmament field requires the participation of all parts of society.” 


“Oppenheimer” at the Oscars

Christopher Nolan’s 2023 biopic film, Oppenheimer, is up for several honors at the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday evening, March 10. The film has proven to be a mesmerizing and timely reminder for millions of moviegoers that nuclear weapons – and the leaders in control of them – still have the power to destroy us all. 

Upon accepting the award for best director at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards earlier this year, Nolan said that while his film ended on a “dramatically necessary note of despair,” he wanted to spotlight the “individuals and organizations who have fought long and hard to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world. Since its peak in 1967, they’ve done it by almost 90%. Of late, that’s gone the wrong way. And so, in accepting this, I do just want to acknowledge their efforts and point out that they show the necessity and potential of efforts for peace,” he added.

We’ve reduced the nuclear danger before, and we can and must do it again.


In Case You Missed It…

,” Feb. 15.