Rising nuclear risk, disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Contents

Chapter 4: Challenges to non-proliferation and arms control

265.The principal challenges to the existing non-proliferation and arms control regime are: the potential collapse of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal); North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons; the non-entry into force of the Comprehensive-Test-Ban Treaty; the inability of the Conference on Disarmament to agree a programme of work; the expected collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty; and the potential decision by the United States and Russia not to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

The Iran nuclear deal

266.The survival of the Iran nuclear deal is one of the most pressing issues in nuclear diplomacy. Ms Cox said having prevented “Iran from going nuclear” had been the last decade’s “most notable non-proliferation win”.466 The Minister said the UK was “a main party to the establishment of the” agreement and the Government had “championed it ever since.”467

267.The Iran nuclear deal is detailed in Box 7.

268.We considered the Iran nuclear deal in our 2017 report The Middle East: Time for new realism, concluding that “The UK should continue to support the Iran nuclear deal, whether or not it is supported by the US.”468 Following the May 2018 decision by the United States to withdraw from the deal and reimpose nuclear related sanctions on Iran,469 we concluded in our 2018 report UK foreign policy in a shifting world order that this decision by Washington was “contrary to the interests of the United Kingdom”.470

Box 7: The Iran nuclear deal

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal) is an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany Russia, the UK and the US)471 on Iran’s nuclear programme. It was agreed on 14 July 2015 and endorsed by the UN Security Council on 20 July 2015.

In exchange for the lifting of UN, US and EU nuclear-related economic sanctions, Iran committed to various restrictions and limitations on its nuclear programme, to be verified by the IAEA. As of March 2019 the IAEA has verified that Iran remains in compliance with the deal.472

Provisions of the Iran nuclear deal include:

  • The reduction of the number of centrifuges in Iran used for the enrichment of Uranium;
  • The conversion of the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant to a research facility;
  • Limits on the research and development of centrifuges;
  • A reduction in the capabilities of the Arak nuclear facility;
  • An extensive monitoring and verification regime agreed with the IAEA.

Some key provisions agreed to in the Iran nuclear deal are time limited for between 8.5 and 25 years. These are sometimes known as ‘sunset clauses’.

In May 2018 President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. The other parties to the agreement continue to support the deal.

In a statement to the House of Commons on 9 May 2018, the then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson MP, said:

“The US decision makes no difference to the British assessment that the constraints imposed on Iran’s nuclear ambitions by the [Iran nuclear deal] remain vital for our national security and the stability of the Middle East … Britain has no intention of walking away; instead we will co-operate with the other parties to ensure that while Iran continues to restrict its nuclear programme, then its people will benefit from sanctions relief in accordance with the central bargain of the deal.”473

Source: Arms Control Association, ‘The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a Glance’: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/JCPOA-at-a-glance [accessed 22 March 2019]

269.The FCO said it “deeply” regretted the US’s withdrawal. “Three years into the deal Iran has complied with its commitments under the agreement, as verified by the IAEA’s reports. The UK is committed to the full and long-term implementation of the [Iran nuclear deal], so long as Iran remains compliant”.474 Ms Price said IAEA reports gave “really high levels of assurance” that Iran was abiding by its commitment to end its nuclear programme.475 Ms Bell noted that as well as IAEA assurances, “The United States’ own intelligence agencies have affirmed that Iran is in compliance with the agreement”476 Mr Plant said the UK position was “a fairly stern critique of US policy, considering the usual tenor of UK–US discussions on anything diplomatically, but nuclear issues in particular”.477

270.The US has cited issues other than Iran’s compliance with the agreement as justification for its withdrawal from the deal. President Trump cited Iran’s alleged sponsoring of terrorism, and said it fuelled “conflicts across the Middle East”. He also alleged that the agreement “was so poorly negotiated” that even if Iran were in compliance, it would “still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time.”478 Finally, President Trump said the deal failed to “address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.”479

271.Mr Koenders said the “extreme polarisation in the world on the issue of Iran” was “understandable” given “Iran’s activities on ballistic missiles and human rights, and on its activities in Syria especially, but also in Iraq.”480 The Government said it remained “concerned about Iran’s development of ballistic missile capability … and its destabilising regional activities, including the proliferation of ballistic missiles and related technology”, but still “strongly” supported the deal.481

272.The White House has called on the European parties to the Iran nuclear deal to back its position. In a speech to the Munich Security Conference on 16 February 2019, Vice President Mike Pence said:

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime. The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve.”482

Europe’s support

273.When asked whether the non-US parties to the Iran nuclear deal were right to defend the agreement, Sir Simon Gass said it was “absolutely right” and in some cases “quite courageous”. The agreement “does what it set out to do, which was to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme would no longer, during the duration of the provisions of the agreement, pose the threat that we felt we were facing”.483

274.Dr Meier said that the Iran nuclear deal was “the single most important issue for European credibility on non-proliferation.” He said sustaining the Iran nuclear deal was “important for Europe’s strategic autonomy … a litmus test for Europeans to uphold their international commitments”.484 Ms Fihn described the “UK’s work with France and Germany on supporting and strengthening the Iran deal” as “extremely helpful and important.”485

275.Ms Shetty thought that, however, in spite Europe’s efforts to defend the Iran nuclear deal, the “hard [work] to try to change the US position” had been to “little end”.486

China and Russia

276.US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal was “a blow to China” according to Dr Leveringhaus, as Beijing “considered itself an important broker” of the deal.487 Dr Zhao said that China was “a great supporter of preserving the [deal]”, in part because of China’s Belt and Road Initiative,488 which “which needs [a] stable Iran”. A “complicating factor” for Beijing’s support of the Iran deal, however, was the “growing US/China bilateral” problems. Dr Zhao was not sure how much China would want “to provoke the US … to preserve the [Iran nuclear deal].”489

277.Russia was “active in facilitating the dialogue over the Iranian nuclear programme” according to Dr Malygina. A “responsible attitude to existing … non-proliferation agreements” was “fundamentally important”, and Russia had “not seen much of that lately”, citing US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal as an example.490 Mr Baklitskiy said “the US withdrawal from the [Iran nuclear deal] showed [Washington’s] limited interest in mutually acceptable multilateral solutions” to international crises.491

Sanctions

278.Lord Browne said it was difficult for European governments to support the Iran nuclear deal in “an environment in which the dollar is so powerful.” US secondary sanctions (see Box 8) “significantly” affected “what business people who would be prepared to work in Iran would do”.492

279.Ms Price noted that US sanctions constrained the ability to use the US and international banking systems for trade with Iran.493 Sir Simon Gass said this was an issue because many businesses had “substantial” US and dollar interests.494 This challenge was why, according to Ms Price, the EU was “trying to put together a special purpose vehicle” (see Box 8) to facilitate business in Iran.495

280.Mr Plant said US sanctions were the “entirely wrong” approach. He said that “sanctions never brought Iran to its knees in the first place”, but rather they “succeeded in creating a perceived security risk within Iran for the Supreme Leader: if there was another Green Revolution,496 certain groups that had sustained him might not turn out in the same force again”. Mr Plant said those “circumstances do not exist now, because there is broader support” for the nuclear deal.”497

281.On the other hand, several witnesses noted that renewed US nuclear-related sanctions were not the only obstacle to investing in Iran’s economy. Ms Price said that while “businesses take decisions based on sanctions … they are also based on a whole range of other factors, including the business environment in a country such as Iran.”498 Sir Simon Gass agreed: “there are difficulties in doing business with Iran that have nothing to do with the nuclear issue” and with “the opacity of the Iranian banking and commercial systems, the difficulty of knowing exactly who you are dealing with in Iran.”499

Box 8: Sanctions on Iran and the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges

From 2006 sanctions were imposed on Iran’s economy in response to its alleged nuclear weapons development programme. In December 2006 the UN Security Council unanimously agreed multilateral sanctions, which were further expanded in March 2008 and June 2010. The United States and the EU also imposed bilateral sanctions.

In the Iran nuclear deal it was agreed that the P5+1 would lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran following the implementation of the deal. This was announced on 16 January 2016, following which nuclear-related sanctions were lifted.500

Following the announcement of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal on 9 May 2018, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that waived US sanctions would be reintroduced after 90- and 180-day ‘wind-down’ periods. These wind-down periods were to allow foreign businesses to end their dealings in Iran before they became subject to US secondary sanctions.

Secondary sanctions affect parties that do business with parties subject to direct primary sanctions. In the case of Iran, US secondary sanctions threaten to restrict non-Iranian entities’ access to US financial markets if they do business with sanctioned Iranian entities.

The United States refused a request by France, Germany, the UK and the EU to exempt entities doing legitimate business with Iran from US secondary sanctions.

On 5 November 2018, following the 180-day wind-down period, the US reimposed the remaining nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. In addition to those sanctions it waived, Washington designated an “additional 300 new entities”. Temporary waivers were granted to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey to continue importing Iranian oil at reduced levels. 501

On 31 January 2019 France, Germany and the United Kingdom announced the creation of INSTEX (Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges), “a Special Purpose Vehicle aimed at facilitating legitimate trade between European economic operators and Iran.” Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, said that France, Germany and the United Kingdom had “taken a significant step forward in delivering our commitment under the Iran nuclear deal to preserve sanctions relief for the people of Iran.”

Sources: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, ‘New mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran: joint statement’: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-on-the-new-mechanism-to-facilitate-trade-with-iran [accessed 22 March 2019]; IAEA, ‘IAEA and Iran: Chronology of Key Events’: https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iran/chronology-of-key-events [accessed 22 March 2019]; and Arms Control Association, ‘Iran Proliferation Issues’: https://www.armscontrol.org/taxonomy/term/140 [accessed 22 March 2019]

282.Several witnesses expressed scepticism that the establishment by France, Germany and the UK of the Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), detailed in Box 8, would be effective in bypassing US secondary sanctions and providing the level of sanctions relief Tehran would need to maintain the nuclear deal. Dr Meier referred to it as “symbolic right now”, but suggested it “could evolve into something”.502 Mr Koenders referred to the “vehicle” as “weak”, and said Europe needed to “beef [it] up”.503

283.Sir Simon Gass thought it was “good that the European Union is doing these things” but he did not “expect them to make a very major difference to the volume of trade” between the EU and Iran. He added that if he were Iranian he would “be looking more towards Russia, China and perhaps some other countries” to “maintain trade flows”.504

The future of the Iran deal

284.Sir Simon Gass thought Tehran would “stick with the agreement for a time” as “evading some parts of the agreement … might put Iran into a rather dangerous position.” He added that Iran would “perhaps wait to see what happens in US domestic politics” and that Tehran “would take some comfort … in the way this issue has divided the United States from its key European partners.” He said this latter point “should be a concern” to the UK.505

285.Lord Browne said “most … experts” were “pessimistic about where it will all end up”.506 Ms Shetty said that the Iran deal could still “collapse”, and that this would have “proliferation consequences for the region”507 (as discussed in Chapter 3). Mr Baklitskiy thought the resumption of a “full scale” nuclear programme in Iran could result in “a nuclear technology race in the Middle East”, “escalation of tensions around Iran”, and “military strikes against Tehran”, which could push the region “into another war.”508

286.Mr Koenders said the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal would be “another undermining of a multilateral treaty.” This was a “risky … signal” to other countries, “including North Korea”.509 Sir Simon Gass said there was a “much wider non-proliferation reason” for defending the Iran nuclear deal. To “step away from obligations, particularly perhaps when one party has already gone to considerable lengths to meet its obligations under that agreement … undermines confidence in arms control arrangements, and indeed in agreements generally.”510 Ambassador Kmentt thought the Iran nuclear deal was “crucial” in efforts to “shore up the non-proliferation pillar of the NPT”, and that US withdrawal had placed the “norm against non-proliferation” in serious doubt.511

287.The US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is against the interests of the United Kingdom and undermines the global non-proliferation regime. The Government has been right to defend the deal; we welcome its co-operation with European partners to find ways to preserve it.

288.The Government should consult its partners in the Iran nuclear deal about how best to ensure that the gains to the non-proliferation regime delivered by the constraints on Iran’s nuclear programme set out in the deal are not put in jeopardy when its time-limited provisions come to an end.

North Korea

289.Professor Evans described North Korea’s nuclear programme as one of “the two crucial cutting-edge cases currently testing the international community’s capacity and resolve on non-proliferation and disarmament respectively”.512 The Minister told us North Korea posed “an unacceptable threat to the international community”.513

Box 9: History of North Korea’s nuclear programme

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) joined the NPT in 1985.

In 1993 the IAEA first accused North Korea of violating the NPT and demanded access to nuclear sites.

In October 1994 the US and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, which committed the latter to freezing its nuclear programme in exchange for civil nuclear energy support.

In December 2002 North Korea announced it was reactivating its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and would expel UN inspectors. In January 2003 Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT.

North Korea announced in February 2005 that it had developed nuclear weapons, and conducted its first underground test in October 2006.

Following increasing tensions, relations between the US and North Korea reached a low following Pyongyang’s threat to fire a ballistic missile near Guam, a US territory, in August 2017.

Beginning in January 2018, talks between North and South Korea resulted in an agreement to end hostilities between the two in April 2018.

In June 2018 President Trump became the first US President to meet a North Korean leader at a summit in Singapore. A second summit took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February 2019.

Source: BBC, ‘North Korea profile—Timeline’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15278612 [accessed 22 March 2019]

290.The FCO said North Korea “continues to challenge non-proliferation norms and the NPT itself.”514

291.North Korea claims to have withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 (see Box 9 and Chapter 3). Ms Price said in the Government’s view, “although North Korea has expressed its intention to leave the NPT, we do not believe that it has done so fully … We would say that it still has responsibilities and commitments under the NPT that we think it needs to meet.”515

292.Ms Berger said that the idea that “if certain leaders whom they had close relations with had had a nuclear weapons capability, they might still be alive and in power” was a lesson “not lost on North Korea”.516 While North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme was “driven by perceived insecurity”, it had also become “ingrained in North Korea’s own national identity”. Kim Jong-Un had used the nuclear programme “very effectively to achieve his own domestic political aims.”517

US–North Korea negotiations

293.North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since its first nuclear test in 2006. Ms Berger thought these sanctions had caused pain but not necessarily changed Pyongyang’s thinking.518 On 19 September 2017, following tensions between the United States and North Korea as a result of the latter’s nuclear tests, President Trump in a speech to the UN General Assembly said:

“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life … The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man [Kim Jong-Un] is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”519

In an earlier press conference on 8 August 2017, President Trump had said North Korea would “be met with fire and fury” if it threatened the US.520

294.In a change of approach, on 12 June 2018 President Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in Singapore. In a joint statement released at the Summit’s close, the two leaders said:

“President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong-Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to co-operate for the development of new US–DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”521

295.A second summit took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on 28 February 2019. The Hanoi Summit ended without an agreement. During a press conference at the close of the Summit, President Trump said:

“I think [mine and Kim Jong-Un’s] relationship is very strong. But … we had some options, and at this time we decided not to do any of the options … But it was a very interesting two days. And I think, actually, it was a very productive two days. But sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”522

296.Ms Berger said that “negotiations with North Korea, at least on the nuclear issue, have not really happened yet.” North Korea had “made a very clear and concerted effort to skip working-level discussions and escalate the conversation up to presidential level, which is where they feel they can get the best agreement for them, or the best outcome for them”. She said they were “probably right” in this approach given the “persuasions of this US President”.523

297.Ms Berger was sceptical as to how much had been achieved. “North Korea has refrained from doing some of the types of developmental testing that they were so actively doing in 2017”, both in terms of “missile and nuclear weapons testing”. However, the North Koreans had “explained that to their own population as being about no longer needing to do that sort of testing because they achieved the capability by the end of 2017.” Since the beginning of US–North Korea talks there had “absolutely not” been a “material or a meaningful change in North Korea’s level of capability”; Pyongyang was “continuing to produce ballistic missiles that are the delivery systems for the nuclear weapons” and North Korea had “told us that they are doing sub-critical nuclear testing”.524 Moreover, North Korean research and investment was continuing.525

298.Ms Berger said the possibility that North Korea was “at all interested” in giving up its nuclear weapons was “very remote.” It was possible that sustained dialogue over “10 to 20 years” on issues including arms control and transparency measures might change Kim Jong-Un’s mind, but she thought this was “far away.”526 Dr Clegg believed there was a different “conception” in Washington and Pyongyang on what “Korean denuclearisation” meant, with the former believing it “simply a matter of [North Korea] getting rid of its nuclear weapons” and the latter thinking it involved “the Korean peninsula as a whole, including restraints by other powers.”527

299.Mr Baklitskiy said that while dialogue between the US and North Korea was “a welcome change compared to [the 2017] ‘fire and fury’ approach”, Washington’s position could be “reversed”.528 Mr Plant took a different view, noting that that the “rapprochement between the north and the south has effectively removed the risk of war on the peninsula”.529

Role of the UK

300.The FCO said the UK had “played an active role in pushing the DPRK to renounce their illegal nuclear weapons programme through the agreement of a series of robust UN Security Council Resolutions and proactive sanctions enforcement”. The Government was “maintaining pressure on the DPRK regime in close co-ordination with the US and other partner nations, and [stood] ready to assist in the denuclearisation of the DPRK using the UK’s unique capabilities.” It continued “to believe that negotiations” were “the best way to make progress towards the complete, verifiable, and irreversible end to [North Korea’s] WMD and ballistic missile programmes.”530

301.Ms Shetty said there was “limited input from the UK” on North Korea, as the “diplomacy effort” was “led primarily by the United States”. The UK was “not as important a partner to the Trump Administration as … the South Koreans and the Chinese”, although “nor should it be … given its other priorities.”531 The Minister said that the UK’s “influence and direct involvement” was “greater in the case of Iran than it was in North Korea”, citing “obvious geographic and other reasons.”532

Other regional powers

302.China’s views were “critical” in understanding the possible future of the Korean Peninsula.533 Mr Plant said China could not “tell the North Koreans what to do”, but he thought President Xi Jinping’s message to Pyongyang had been to “hold firm” and it would “get more out of Trump”.534

303.Dr Zhao said that China had a different understanding of the North Korean issue to the US. Beijing was aware of risks of tougher sanctions: North Korea would potentially become an “enemy of China”, and China “would never want to put itself in the crosshairs of North Korean nuclear weapons.”535 Mr Plant noted that China’s “power over North Korea” was one of “life and death.” 536

304.Mr Plant said Seoul’s priorities were “not those of the US”. Non-proliferation was “very low down that list of priorities for the South Korean Administration”. “The discrepancy in the approach” between South Korea and the United States “allows North Korea to forum shop, and of course they have chosen the forum that is better for them: South Korean discussions.”537

North Korea, Iran and the wider non-proliferation regime

305.Lord Browne said any future deal to denuclearise North Korea would “look very much like” the Iran nuclear deal. There would “have to be restrictions on what North Korea can do, and … inspection and verification to make sure that it stays within those restrictions.” This was akin to the Iran nuclear deal.538

306.Several witnesses said that the US Administration was “treating Pyongyang remarkably differently from Tehran”.539 Dr Meier said “the US sometimes seems to be courting a country that is violating international norms and agreements and at the same time trying to punish a country such as Iran, which is currently upholding its international non-proliferation commitments.”540

307.Dr Meier thought the “double standard” in the way the US was dealing with Iran and North Korea was “a problem for the NPT”.541 Ms Bell agreed. 542

308.Ms Bell added that she found it “troubling” that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had “referenced … that North Korea actually had nuclear weapons” as the justification for the difference in approach.543 She did not think the US “should be encouraging countries to get nuclear weapons in order to get a better deal from us.”544 Similarly, Mr Baklitskiy said that the current US approach to North Korea would “strengthen the notion that nuclear weapons are not only useful as a deterrent but also provide a valuable negotiating advantage”.545

309.Sir Simon Gass said that for Iran and North Korea, and any country that aspired to a “nuclear capability”, a “key reason” was “often a sense of vulnerability rather than a wish to be aggressive, although of course the two are almost two sides of a coin.” On non-proliferation:

“one key issue we have to think about is how to give some countries a greater sense that they are not going to be threatened or attacked from outside. That, of course, becomes much harder when the key determinant of whether they have that security depends upon the word of the United States President and the willingness of the United States to stand by agreements it has entered into.”546

310.We welcome efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear programme. Any future deal achieving the denuclearisation of North Korea will need to be complete and verifiable.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

311.Figure 5 shows the nuclear possessor states’ most recent nuclear tests.

Figure 5: Most recent nuclear tests of the nuclear possessor states

Source: Preparatory Commission for the Preparatory Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), ‘History of nuclear testing, world overview’: https://www.ctbto.org/nuclear-testing/history-of-nuclear-testing/world-overview/ [accessed 3 April 2019]

312.The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament, but due to a lack of consensus could not be agreed and was subsequently moved to the UN General Assembly, where it was agreed in 1996 (see Box 10).

313.Ms Nakamitsu said “early entry into force of the CTBT would be an enormously important step towards nuclear [weapons] elimination.”547 Trident Ploughshares said the failure to achieve the entry into force of the CTBT mirrored failures in the NPT, notably “the failure of nuclear armed states to make credible progress” towards disarmament.548

314.The Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) said that, “Against the challenge of establishing the legal and technical foundations needed for verifiable, transparent and irreversible nuclear disarmament, a comprehensive prohibition on nuclear testing is recognised as an integral element of a multilaterally-established nuclear disarmament framework.” Nonetheless, “entry into force remains elusive.”549

315.Ms Ballestas de Dietrich said the CTBT was having an effect, even though it had not yet entered into force. It had “been signed by the five Nuclear Weapon States” and while “China and the United States have yet to ratify the treaty, its very signature already obliges” all “signatories to not carry out any actions that would defeat the CTBT’s object and purpose.”550 Medact told us that as a result of the CTBT nuclear tests could be “easily detected”, while the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom UK said the treaty had a curbing effect.551

Box 10: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) bans “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” globally. The CTBT was negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva between 1994 and 1996 but, following objections from India and Iran, the treaty was moved to the UN General Assembly in September 1996 where it was agreed and opened for signature.

The treaty will not enter into force until 44 specific states, referred to as Annex 2 states, have ratified it. These states are those that had nuclear facilities (peaceful or otherwise) at the time of negotiation. As of April 2019, 168 countries have ratified but eight Annex 2 states have not: China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

The Clinton Administration was an active proponent of the CTBT, but the US Senate voted against the treaty’s ratification in 1999. The Obama Administration supported the CTBT but did not push for a Senate vote.

Article 2 of the treaty established the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) to administer the treaty’s verification regime, comprising the International Monitoring System (IMS), the International Data Centre (IDC) and on-site inspections. A Preparatory Committee of the CTBTO, supported by the treaty’s 182 signatories (including the United States), is based in Vienna. Both the IMS and IDC are able to operate before the treaty enters into force, but on-site inspections cannot take place.

Source: UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, ‘Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)’: https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/nuclear/ctbt [accessed 3 April 2019]; CTBO, ‘What is the CTBT?’: https://www.ctbto.org/the-treaty/article-xiv-conferences/2011/afc11-information-for-media-and-press/what-is-the-ctbt/ [accessed 3 April 2019]; and Arms Control Association, ‘Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at a Glance’: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/test-ban-treaty-at-a-glance [accessed 3 April 2019]

316.The FCO said the Government called on Annex 2 countries (see Box 10) that “have not ratified the Treaty”,552 and are thus blocking its entry into force, “to do so … as soon as possible.”553 The CTBTO described the UK as “among the leading supporters” of the treaty: “financially, politically and technically”.554

317.Witnesses considered the perspectives of nuclear possessor states on the CTBT. Dr Zhao thought Beijing was still “generally supportive” of it.555 Dr Leveringhaus believed the reasons for China having not yet ratified were “mostly strategic”, and due to the fact the US had not yet ratified, and India had not yet signed the treaty. She said China had demonstrated compliance with the CTBT “through the certification of four [International Monitoring System] stations on Chinese soil in 2017.”556

318.Dr Sultan said India and Pakistan had “unilateral moratoria” on testing nuclear weapons, and “if both states could be encouraged to convert their respective unilateral moratoria into a legally binding bilateral arrangement, this would help the global non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.”557

319.The Executive Committee of British Pugwash told us “several of the other states that have still to ratify … have said that they will take a cue from the United States”.558 Mr Miller assessed the prospects for “achieving the required number of [CTBT] ratifications” as “nil”.559 Ms Bell disagreed and advocated a step-by-step approach to securing the remaining necessary ratifications. It was important to consider how to “start putting the pieces into place to get people on board with that Treaty”, and suggested “The next step could be to see whether you could get Israel, Iran and Egypt to finally ratify”.560

320.The 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review stated that the Trump Administration would not seek ratification at this time.561 Ms Bell admitted that “there are forces in the US Senate that never want to ratify agreements, no matter what they are.” She disagreed, however, with “the idea that the US Senate is incapable of ratifying any more treaties.” Countries would “get into treaties when they see that it is in their national security interests”. “20 years down the road” from the Senate’s 1999 rejection of the CTBT, Senators could be assured that the US could “maintain a safe, secure and effective stockpile without explosive nuclear testing” and that the International Monitoring System would “be able to detect illicit explosive tests even at very low yields”, both issues that had been factors in the Senate’s rejection.562

321.Ms Bell said the UK could be “influential”, and suggested the Government should consider whether there was “a way in which they could get to a moratorium [on nuclear testing] that would eventually lead to CTBT ratification”.563 The FCO said the UK continued “to be a vocal campaigner for the entry into force” of the CTBT and pressed the issue “whenever the opportunity presents itself”. The FCO recognised “the valuable contribution of voluntary national moratoria to international peace and security”. However, it was “evident that these individual and voluntary measures do not have the same permanent and legally-binding effect as the entry into force of the Treaty”.564

322.Entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty would be a significant step towards nuclear disarmament. We regret that a number of Annex 2 countries have yet to ratify the treaty. We strongly welcome the UK’s vocal support for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and its financial support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation. Meanwhile, we welcome the fact that the P5 are operating de facto moratoriums on nuclear testing and urge the Government to use its influence to ensure that continues.

The Conference on Disarmament

323.The Conference on Disarmament has 65 member states, including all nuclear possessor states. Member states have agreed that “The Conference shall conduct its work and adopt its decisions by consensus.”565 This includes the agreement of agendas and programmes of work. As a result of the Conference’s rules, any single member state can block progress on any issue.566

324.The inability of the Conference on Disarmament to agree a programme of work has been a challenge to non-proliferation and disarmament efforts. It operates by consensus and has “been blocked for 20-plus years”.567 Its last negotiation was for the CTBT (discussed above), the final negotiation of which was finally transferred to the UN General Assembly.

325.Pakistan is primarily responsible for blocking discussions at the CD, due to its objection to the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (discussed below).

326.Ms Nakamitsu said that in 2018 there had been “some progress in terms of the Conference on Disarmament returning to substantive discussions under the five subsidiary working groups”,568 which she hoped would continue in 2019.569

A fissile material cut-off treaty

327.Figure 6 shows the current global stockpiles of fissile materials.

Figure 6: Global stockpiles of fissile materials

Source: International Panel on Fissile Materials, ‘Fissile material stocks’: http://fissilematerials.org/ [accessed 3 April 2019]

328.The prospect of negotiating a treaty banning the production of the fissile material necessary for the creation of nuclear weapons570 has been on the agenda of the non-proliferation regime since the mid-1990s. However, progress has stalled. Ms Price said that while an “agreement to start negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty [FMCT] would be a really big prize”, “realistically, it will be very difficult because there is one participant”—Pakistan—”that has objected for many years and is likely to continue to do so”571 Box 11 explains what such a treaty would encompass.

329.Ms Nakamitsu said beginning negotiations for an FMCT would be an important step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. Lord Browne said that progress on that agenda was “not … possible until we are able to count, track and secure all such materials in such a way that creates confidence that” no material can be “diverted” to a nuclear weapons program.572

330.Ms Bell said Pakistan’s “problem” with the proposed treaty was that “other countries” (India) “have large stockpiles of existing fissile material”. Therefore banning future production without addressing “total stockpiles that currently exist” was “not fair to Pakistan.”573 Mr Kumar said a FMCT had “been blocked by the single-handed efforts of Pakistan, but “the actual issue” was “Pakistan’s disillusionment over the privileged treatment that India has gained through the [Nuclear Suppliers Group] waiver” that India received with the India–United States Civil Nuclear Agreement (discussed in Chapter 3).574

331.Several witnesses thought that because Pakistan was likely to continue to object to a FMCT the prospect of beginning negotiations was low. Mr Kumar said the “prospects … continue to be bleak as the factors that stymied [a FMCT] … remain unchanged.”575

Box 11: A fissile material cut-off treaty

A fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) is a proposed treaty banning the production of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, two of the main components of nuclear weapons. Talks on the possible negotiation of an FMCT take place at the Conference on Disarmament, and began in 1995 through a Canadian initiative. As it operates on a consensus basis, progress towards an FMCT has stalled and formal negotiations have not begun.

Non-Nuclear Weapon States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are already prohibited from acquiring fissile material for weapons.

The proposed FMCT would impose restrictions on existing nuclear possessor states, including those outside the NPT framework. The five NPT-recognised Nuclear Weapon States have all ceased production of HEU and plutonium, while the four non-NPT recognised nuclear-armed states have production of one or both ongoing.

Source: Arms Control Association, ‘Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) at a Glance’: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/fmct [accessed 3 April 2019]

332.Some witnesses said other countries also did not support the FMCT. Ms Bell said that “a lot of countries are hiding behind Pakistan and are very happy to see a lack of progress.”576 Mr Miller included China alongside Pakistan in what he called “a successful … effort for decades to block an FMCT”.577 Dr Zhao took a different approach, describing China as “generally supportive”,578 but said Beijing was reluctant to pressure Pakistan.579

333.As Pakistan is able to block negotiation of an FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament, some have suggested bypassing the Conference on Disarmament and moving the FMCT directly to the UN General Assembly, where individual states would not be able to prevent progress.

334.Dr Meier thought this would allow the possibility of getting “an agreement by all those states that now are committed to stopping the production of fissile material for weapons purposes.” He suggested that this approach would “flush out the real positions of the other countries that are now hiding behind Pakistan.” 580 Medact also thought this was an option.581

335.Ms Price said the Government took a different view: “we should keep it within the Conference on Disarmament”. This was “the only venue where all the countries that we want the treaty to cover participate.” Moving discussion of a fissile material cut-off treaty to the UN General Assembly “would risk negotiating a beautiful treaty but one that was not signed or agreed by … the countries that we most need it to cover”. The Government though that “if [countries] are involved in agreeing a treaty, ultimately they will be more invested in it and more likely to implement it.”582

336.Ms Nakamitsu acknowledged that moving negotiations to the General Assembly was an approach taken with other treaties, including the Arms Trade Treaty. However, when such a decision was taken on the Ban Treaty (discussed in Chapter 3) “it became … a huge political issue”, that created a deep division between UN member states. “When it comes to issues so closely linked to matters of national security, consensus decision-making is still important, which is why many countries still consider the Conference on Disarmament to be an important platform.”583

337.Dr Zhao said China would be “very concerned” by this approach. It believed “that the UN General Assembly could be used by the United States as a means to build pressure on China and other Nuclear Weapon States. China prefers a consensus mechanism.”584

338.The Conference on Disarmament is an important forum for non-proliferation and disarmament to be discussed by states, including those outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UK should consider every option to unblock the Conference. One option could be to call for negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty to be moved out of the Conference on Disarmament and into the UN General Assembly. While this would be likely to result in a treaty with less geographical coverage, a less well-subscribed to treaty would be better than no treaty at all, particularly if it included among its signatories the P5 countries which have ceased production of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Moreover, the removal of this issue from the Conference on Disarmament would remove an obstacle to the forum agreeing a programme of work.

Arms control agreements

339.BASIC described arms control as “a crucial tool in managing exceptionally dangerous situations”.585 Lord Browne thought it was disintegrating;586 Ms Bell thought “we are heading towards a world in which we not using this essential tool.”587

340.Dr Meier told us “We have been seeing a move backwards on arms control for a number of years now, and the imminent collapse of the INF treaty and the uncertain future of the New START treaty are clear indications of the lack of willingness of the great powers, generally speaking, to restrict their military potential, which is the core of arms control—particularly nuclear arms control.”588

341.The INF Treaty and New START were of particular concern to witnesses, as their collapse or expiry could cause an arms race of intermediate and cruise missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, all of which are currently banned or limited by the two treaties.589

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

342.Several witnesses referred to the possible collapse of INF Treaty as a significant challenge in global nuclear diplomacy. The INF Treaty and its possible collapse are explained in Box 12.

343.On 4 April 2019 the House of Commons Defence Committee published a report, Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty.590

Box 12: Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in December 1987 and entered into force in June 1988. It required the destruction of both sides’ ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometres, along with their launches and associated support equipment within three years of the treaty entering into force.

As a result of the INF Treaty, both sides eliminated all missiles covered by the agreement. A total of 2,692 missiles were eliminated by May 1991.

In July 2014 the United States first alleged that Russia was in violation of its INF Treaty obligations. The US Department of State repeated these allegations in published assessments in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

On 4 December 2018 the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that Russia had been found to be in “material breach” of the INF Treaty and that the United States would suspend its treaty obligations in 60 days if Russia had not returned to compliance. On 2 February 2019 the United States declared a suspension of its obligations and its intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty in six months, a notice period required by the original agreement. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that it would suspend its treaty obligations.

US withdrawal from the INF Treaty will come into effect on 2 August 2019.

Source: US Department of State, ‘Treaty Between The United States Of America And The Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics On The Elimination Of Their Intermediate-Range And Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty)’: https://www.state.gov/t/avc/trty/102360.htm [accessed 3 April 2019]; Arms Control Association, ‘The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at a Glance’: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/INFtreaty [accessed 3 April 2019]

344.Many witnesses held Russia was responsible for the collapse of the treaty. The Government said:

“For a number of years, Russia has been in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russia’s development and deployment of its SSC-8 cruise missile system amounts to a material breach of the INF Treaty … We will continue to encourage Russia to engage seriously in bilateral discussions with the US. We believe the onus is now on Russia to demonstrate urgently that it will return to full compliance.”591

345.Ms Shetty said that over a number of years the US had alleged that Russia was violating the treaty, and there had been “concern … from European Allies”.592 Ms Cox confirmed that “NATO fully supports the US decision to withdraw from the Treaty.”593

346.Dr Malygina said it was not only the US that had compliance concerns: “Russia had concerns as well and talked about those concerns within the procedures established by the INF.” Dr Malygina believed “the major consideration behind the … US withdrawal from the INF was the intention to have freedom to deploy corresponding missiles in the north-west Pacific, aiming them against China.”594

Preserving or replacing the INF Treaty

347.Mr Baklitskiy said that following the US’s announcement on 2 February 2019 of its intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, the parties had six months “to find [a] compromise”.595 Mr Koenders said the future of the INF looked “grim”, and that the treaty had “not received sufficient attention from … political leadership in Europe and elsewhere.”596

348.Some witnesses thought diplomatic options to save the INF were “still on the table”, although Ms Bell said that ultimately “Russia will need to decide whether it is worth losing the INF Treaty to preserve … one particular type of missile and a capability it has in other systems.” 597 Mr Plant told us that the prospect of the INF Treaty being revived was “vanishingly unlikely”, so it was necessary to “adjust ourselves to a future where the INF [was] not part of our security structure.”598

349.Dr Meier described the US and NATO positions as demanding that “Russia has to come back into compliance” with the treaty.599 Dr Malygina characterised Washington’s position as not being “ready for constructive discussion”—the US did “not accept the proposals suggested by Russia”.600 Dr Meier, while accepting that “a lot of the Russian allegations [that the US is in violation of the Treaty] are unfounded,” disagreed with NATO’s unwillingness to “enter a reciprocal process to clear up those allegations.”601

350.Mr Heisbourg thought Russia’s “violation of the INF Treaty [was] not solely about Europe and it may not even be principally about Europe.”602 Mr Koenders believed neither Russia nor the United States were interested in saving the INF Treaty, because both sides thoughts the collapse of the deal would give it a “free hand” vis-à-vis China. This complicated the prospects of further negotiations, because if China were to be involved, so would Pakistan and India.603 Mr Heisbourg concluded that this complexity reduced “the interest of both the Americans and the Russians in maintaining the INF Treaty”.604

351.He referred to China as “the elephant in the INF room”.605 It was

“the free rider in this treaty. It is not part of the treaty. It has been able to deploy massively, in the hundreds and thousands, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles where the distinction between nuclear and non-nuclear is absent … The Chinese have been able to do this without violating any treaty, but of course this puts the Americans and the Russians in a rather awkward situation.”606

352.Ms Shetty took a different view, telling us the US did not need “ground-launched cruise missiles” of the sort it could develop outside of the INF Treaty, “in order to protect itself against the Chinese; it has advanced and strong air and sea capabilities.”607 Dr Zhao said “Chinese experts widely interpret the US withdrawal decision as an official declaration of an all-out military competition with and containment against China.”608

Multilateralising or regionalising the INF

353.One option to save the INF Treaty would be to ‘multilateralise’ it by encouraging other countries to sign up to a treaty limiting short and medium-range missiles systems.

354.Mr Heisbourg told us if “you want to manage some form of return to INF, you have to include the Chinese.”609 Dr Zhao said “the prospects for China to join the INF or some modified version of the treaty seem quite low at this moment”. China viewed its INF missiles as “critically important to its capability to deter a future US military intervention over Taiwan and in other regional security issues that are at the core of China’s territorial integrity and national security”. It perceived itself as “possessing a uniquely superior military capability in this area” and seemed “relatively confident of its long-term potential to outcompete the United States in a post-INF world”.610 Ms Shetty agreed that China was “very unlikely” to agree to multilateralise the INF because most of its capabilities fell in the INF category.611

355.Dr Clegg said “any suggestion of extending or replacing … the INF [Treaty] with a multilateral treaty … involving China or other powers” must consider that “other powers including China have far fewer … nuclear weapons than … the US and Russia”.612

356.Mr Heisbourg said including China would also create further questions: “‘What about India?’, ‘What about Pakistan?’, What about Israel?’.”613 Dr Meier said we would “have to put something on the table to encourage these countries—China, India, Pakistan and other countries that have INF systems—to enter such talks.” Dr Meier suggested that “banning nuclear-armed cruise missiles” might be one such proposal.614

357.The Minister told us the Government had “no indication” from its “engagements with international partners” that any other country had “an appetite to consider joining the INF Treaty.” He added that “for any country to contemplate joining an amended or new treaty, Russia would first need to address its violations of the existing treaty.”615

358.A second option was to regionalise the treaty—to ban deployments of INF missiles in Europe but allow them elsewhere. Mr Koenders had “doubts” about this approach, noting technical challenges with verifying such an agreement, because “these systems are mobile” and could be relatively easily moved.616

359.Dr Meier was “sceptical about a regional approach”. Prohibiting the deployment of short and medium-range missiles in Europe only would serve to “push the problem towards Asia.”617 The House of Commons Defence Committee concluded similarly, arguing that “restricting the treaty to Europe might well have a destabilising influence in Asia.”618

360.Another problem with the prospect of regionalising the INF Treaty, according to the House of Commons Defence Committee, was that it would “reward Russian bad faith”. The Committee concluded “Russia should not be able to gain a more advantageous settlement through violating the treaty.”619

Implications for Europe

361.Ms Bell said that, “Barring an intervention from President Trump and President Putin, it seems likely that the INF treaty will collapse in August.” This “could precipitate the reintroduction of a short-warning nuclear attack threat on capitals in Europe.”620

362.Ms Cox said it was “too early to tell what the possible end of the treaty will mean for nuclear risks in Europe”.621 NATO was “in the process of evaluating how Russia’s development and deployment of intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles affect our deterrence and defence posture.”622 One reason why Russia having already developed and deployed the SSC-8 missiles was “so problematic from a NATO perspective” was that “it reduces the warning time and we will not know whether we have been hit with a nuclear or conventional weapon until it happens. That lowers the threshold for nuclear use and makes responding, and figuring out how to respond, much more difficult in a time of crisis”.623

363.Dr James Cameron, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of War Studies, King’s College London, said the “demise” of the treaty “would have a significant impact on UK security”. Future Russian weapons systems that would have been prohibited by the Treaty “would by their nature be aimed at targets in NATO Europe, most likely including the UK.” The deployment of US equivalent systems to “offset” Russia’s INF systems in Europe “would be politically divisive, with NATO member states splitting over the security benefits of the new weapons versus the prospect of a new arms race in Europe and/or the domestic political controversy involved in hosting new US weapons on their soil.”624

364.Ms Cox said that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had “made it clear that [NATO does] not feel that reintroducing nuclear-armed ground-launched cruise missiles into the European theatre is an appropriate response” to Russian violations of the INF Treaty.625 Dr Malygina said that Russia “will not deploy land-based short-range and medium-range missiles either in Europe or in other regions of the world until the US deploys such missiles in the corresponding regions.”626

365.Mr Baklitskiy believed it would be possible for Russia and NATO to agree the “non-deployment … of INF-range systems in Europe”. This could be through an agreement that was “politically binding instead of legally binding if necessary.”627 Mr Plant said “a presidential nuclear initiative”—rather than a treaty, which would require the approval of the US Senate—was the only option he could see.628

366.We accept that Russia is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Numerous attempts to resolve concerns about compliance have made no progress, which has led to the undesirable collapse of the treaty. The UK, along with its European partners, should use the ongoing discussions in NATO to promote approaches that could lead either to a revival of the treaty or, at least, to avoiding the deployment of such missiles in Europe by either party to the treaty.

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

Box 13: New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty

The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) was signed by the US and Russia in April 2010 and entered into force in February 2011. New START limits both sides to:

  • 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
  • 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments (each such heavy bomber is counted as one warhead toward this limit); and
  • 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.

New START replaced the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1) and superseded the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).

New START was agreed to remain in force for 10 years, unless both parties agreed to a one-off extension of no more than five years. New START is due to expire in February 2021 unless it is extended, in which case it could continue in force until February 2026.

Both the United States and Russia can verify compliance with New START. On 5 February 2018, the seven-year deadline when limits took effect, both sides announced they had both completed the reductions agreed in the treaty. The verification regime for New START includes 18 annual short-notice, on-site inspections.

Source: US Department of State, ‘New START’: https://www.state.gov/t/avc/newstart/ [accessed 14 March 2019] and Arms Control Association, ‘New START at a Glance’: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/NewSTART [accessed 14 March 2019]

367.There is a prospect that the New START, detailed in Box 13, might not be extended beyond its current term. Ms Bell said it “could be the next victim of a deteriorating US–Russian strategic stability relationship.”629

368.Witnesses considered the two parties’ approach to extending New START. Ms Bell said Russia had “produced a list of what it says are US compliance problems with the treaty”. She said “the fact that the Russians are regularly referencing these issues in the press” was “a cause for concern”.630 Dr Malygina said Russia’s position was “that the extension of the New START would require full and verifiable US compliance with the treaty provisions, and Russia can see that now that is not the case.”631

369.Mr Miller said the US had “yet to take a position on the potential extension” of the treaty, so “hand-wringing over that treaty’s fate” was “premature”.632 Mr Plant said “by all reports from the US”, Russia was in compliance with the treaty. 633 Ms Bell said, however, said “rumours now abound” that the “Trump Administration are not interested in extending [New START] for an additional five years”.634

370.Ms Cox said that NATO had been “clear that New START was, at the time it was signed, beneficial to strategic stability, and several NATO allies have repeated that loudly in recent weeks.” To the extent that there was an opportunity for the US and Russia to extend New START, “I think that NATO allies would welcome it”.635

371.The FCO said the Government supported the “continued implementation of New START”, stating that the treaty was “evidence that Russia can play by the rules, if it chooses to do so.” It encouraged “both sides to consider this a priority “.636

372.If New START were not extended, Mr Baklitskiy said the US and Russia would lose a “source of reliable information” about the structure of each other’s nuclear forces, and lose the “confidence building measures” provided by the treaty’s meetings under the Bilateral Consultative Commission.637

373.The possible continuation of New START is a decision for the US and Russia, but the Government should make clear to the US Administration the value the UK attaches to this treaty being extended beyond 2021 and its importance to Euro–Atlantic security.

The future of arms control

374.Lord Browne said that since the agreement of New START in 2010, there had been “no agreed process or agenda for next steps on nuclear disarmament and risk reduction between Russia and the United States.” He said that “arms control is failing; trust is being eroded precisely when it is most needed.”638

375.Mr Baklitskiy said there was a “low probability of new arms control agreements [being] negotiated and much less ratified” by the US and Russia. He cited six reasons:

376.Mr Miller called Russia “a serial violator of international arms control treaties and agreements”, citing nine alleged violations.640 Dr Malygina took a different view, telling us she was “sure” Moscow was “open to dialogue”, as arms control was “considered by Russia to be a critical element for preserving strategic stability and peace.”641

377.Mr Miller said “Those who truly believe in arms control should, instead, turn their thinking as to how Russia’s bloated arsenal of non-strategic nuclear weapons can be captured in an arms treaty, perhaps one which succeeds New START and covers all US and Russian nuclear weapons.”642

378.Dr Roberts said Russia had “poisoned arms control as a security tool for the West” and even Moscow’s return to compliance with the INF Treaty and the extension of New START “would not change this fact”.643 There was “no bipartisan support” in the US “for new arms control with a Russia that is not in compliance with its current agreements.”644 Mr Plant said that “as a proponent of arms control”, he found “it hard to make the case that agreements that are not being complied with should be extended or should set a good tone for future discussions.”645

379.Lord Browne saw some fault on the side of the Trump Administration’s approach to arms control: it was “manifestly a problem if the most powerful nation in the world gets itself to the point where no one believes its word in the context of an international treaty.”646

Missile defence

Box 14: The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was a treaty agreed in 1972 that prohibited the US and the Soviet Union from deploying nationwide defences against strategic ballistic missiles.

The US unilaterally withdrew from the treaty in 2002. Washington argued that the treaty stopped it from developing defences against non-state actors and ‘rogue states’.

Source: Arms Control Association, ‘The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty at a Glance’: https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/abmtreaty [accessed 3 April 2019]

380.Dr Cameron told us that “difference between … Washington and Moscow on missile defence” placed “the long-term future of the US–Russia arms control regime in doubt.”647 Matt Korda, Research Associate, Nuclear Information Project, said the “US decision to withdraw from the [Anti-Ballistic Missile] ABM Treaty, and its subsequent efforts to establish a missile defence architecture in the United States and Europe” had “certainly” been “a major turning point in US–Russian relations.” Russia was concerned that while the US has made “statements that its missile defence architecture was only oriented towards” so-called “rogue nations”—namely North Korea and Iran—these claims “may not hold indefinitely.” The United States’ 2019 Missile Defence Review (MDR) included “an explicit reorientation of US missile defences to address Russian and Chinese hypersonic threats.”648

381.This represented a “conspicuous shift in longstanding [US] missile defence policy.” President Putin had “made it crystal clear that Russia’s national modernisation will continue, in an attempt to counter US improvements to its missile defences” and that the United States has made an “explicit pledge” to not accept constraints on its development of deployment of missile defence capabilities, so it seemed “highly unlikely that [President] Putin would agree to any further limitations on Russia’s strategic arsenal”.649

382.Missile defence is not just a factor in US–Russia relations. Dr Zhao said it had “produced a lot of disputes” between China and the US.650 Dr Sultan said ballistic missile defence was also a factor in India–Pakistan relations.651

Internationalising arms control

383.As discussed in relation to the INF Treaty earlier in this chapter, and in the context of nuclear risk and deterrence in Chapter 2, several witnesses discussed the challenge of arms control in a more multipolar world.

384.Ms Bell said she did not think of the “current state” as a “decline” in arms control, but rather a “transformation of how we are going to have to deal with arms control and non-proliferation in the future.” As part of this transformation it would be necessary to think of how to “deal with an asymmetric set-up of various different countries in an agreement”. This would not “necessarily” involve “trading numbers of warheads for numbers of warheads or numbers of delivery systems for that”, but rather “asymmetric trades … such as reductions in exchange for transparency and accounting of particular numbers and agreements not to move certain systems”. This was a “whole-of-government” problem, and would require “help” from legislatures, and should not “simply be left to the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs” in any country.652

385.Dr Cameron said that “As China grows in importance, these dilemmas will only become more significant.”653 Dr Zhao said for “the option of exploring arms control co-operation with the United States” was “anything but popular among the Chinese expert community”. Chinese experts interpreted the US Administration’s references to China in its decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty (discussed above) as an “official declaration of an all-out military competition with and containment against China”.654

386.More broadly, he said “Many Chinese experts … have a cynical view towards arms control; they see it as an extension of the struggles among big powers”. China had “not embraced the view that arms control can be used as a useful instrument to advance China’s own security”.655 Dr Leveringhaus said this related to the historical context: “During the Cold War, China considered arms control destabilising, as a way for the then superpowers to cement nuclear superiority relative to other states, including China”. It had consistently resisted participation in multilateral arms control while the United States and Russia maintain such large nuclear arsenals compared to other nuclear armed states”.656

387.She said more recent Chinese statements on its view of multilateral arms control were not available, but “Chinese nuclear experts have offered helpful, though unofficial, conditions in recent years”. These included: “a unilateral guarantee to keep nuclear weapons off-alert; a unilateral declaration of an official moratorium on fissile material production; and a declared freeze on new nuclear weapons production”. 657

388.The world is dangerously close to an era without arms control, which would increase the risk of nuclear use. We urge the Government to support initiatives, including trust and confidence building measures, to achieve new arms control agreements in the context of a more multipolar world.

Technological developments and arms control

389.Dr Meier said “new technologies” (as discussed in Chapter 2) were a factor in “complicating nuclear arms control”. First, some new technologies were “a way to equalise military advantages for some of the threshold states”,658 which complicated the picture. Second, “the US in particular but also other great powers want to maintain military dominance in all domains”. That “in itself” was “ driving arms races”, which made it “very difficult to re-engage on arms control, because there is no agreement on whether we should do this separately on the different issues that are before us in nuclear arms control and in new technologies altogether”.659 Mr Baklitskiy referred to “hypersonic, space-based” and “anti satellite” technologies as “difficult to incorporate” in arms control, in part because they are “new” and also “because parties don’t want to lose an edge”.660

390.The future of arms control is challenged by the emergence of certain new technologies. However, that it is difficult is no excuse not to try to develop arms control in the context of these technologies. Arms control agreements have overcome technological change in the past, and there is no inherent reason why this cannot be done again.


468 International Relations Committee, The Middle East: Time for new realism (2nd Report, Session 2016–2017, HL Paper 159)

469 White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (8 May 2018): https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action/ [accessed 14 March 2019]

470 International Relations Committee, UK foreign policy in a shifting world order (5th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 250)

471 The P5+1 derives its name from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in addition to Germany. It is not the same initiative as the P5 group that works on wider non-proliferation and disarmament issues referred to elsewhere in this report. The P5+1 is often referred to as the E3+3 in Europe, to denote the role of the three European states.

472 In a speech to the IAEA Board of Governors on 4 March 2019, Director General Yukiya Amano stated that “Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” IAEA, ‘IAEA Director General’s Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors’ (4 March 2018): https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/statements/iaea-director-generals-introductory-statement-to-the-board-of-governors-4-March-2019 [accessed 14 March 2019]

473 Gov.uk, ‘Foreign Secretary’s statement on the Iran nuclear deal, 9 May 2018’ (9 May 2018): (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-statement-on-the-iran-nuclear-deal [accessed 14 March 2019]

474 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

478 Breakout capacity refers to time it would take for a state to develop a nuclear weapons capability, based on the advanced state of its civilian nuclear programme.

479 White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (8 May 2018): https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action/ [accessed 14 March 2019]

481 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

482 White House, ‘Remarks by Vice President Pence at the 2019 Munich Security Conference, Munich, Germany’ (16 February 2019): https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-2019-munich-security-conference-munich-germany/ [accessed 14 March 2019]

487 Written evidence from Dr Leveringhaus (NPT0032)

488 The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a Chinese investment plan to develop infrastructure throughout Asia, Africa and parts of Europe. It was considered in our 2018 report UK foreign policy in a shifting world order. International Relations Committee, UK foreign policy in a shifting world order (5th Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 250)

491 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

496 The Green Revolution began in June 2009 with a spontaneous mass demonstration against the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran. This was followed by mass demonstrations and civil disobedience until February 2010, when the authorities suppressed the demonstrations and arrested its leaders. Hamid Dabashi, ‘What happened to the Green Movement in Iran?’, Al Jazeera (12 June 2013): https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/201351661225981675.html [accessed 3 April 2019]

500 On 17 January 2016 the US imposed targeted sanctions in relation to Iran’s non-nuclear ballistic missile programmes.

501 The US granted these temporary waivers to reduce the immediate impact of sanctions on global oil prices.

508 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

512 Written evidence from Professor Gareth Evans (NPT0036). The other case was Iran’s nuclear programme.

514 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

515 Q 17. Ms Berger said that since 2003, there had been little discussion by States Parties about North Korea at formal NPT meetings. Q 74 (Andrea Berger)

516 An example of this is the fate of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. In 2003, following the US-led invasion of Iraq, Libya agreed to voluntarily relinquish nuclear weapons equipment purchased from A.Q. Khan, the leader of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Following the Libyan Civil War and a NATO-led bombing campaign, Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011. In 2016, after North Korea conducted a nuclear test, North Korean state media cited Libya as an example of what happens to states that give up nuclear programmes of their own accord. Megan Specia and David E. Sanger, ‘How the ‘Libya Model’ Became a Sticking Point in North Korea Nuclear Talks’, New York Times (16 May 2018): https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/world/asia/north-korea-libya-model.html [accessed 14 March 2019]

519 White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly’ (19 September 2017): https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-72nd-session-united-nations-general-assembly/ [accessed 3 April 2019]

520 ‘Donald Trump threatens ‘fury’ against N Korea’, BBC News (8 August 2017): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-40869319 [accessed 3 April 2019]

521 White House, ‘Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit’ (12 June 2018):https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/joint-statement-president-donald-j-trump-united-states-america-chairman-kim-jong-un-democratic-peoples-republic-korea-singapore-summit/ [accessed 3 April 2019]

522 White House, ‘Remarks by President Trump in Press Conference—Hanoi, Vietnam’ (28 February 2019): https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-press-conference-hanoi-vietnam/ [accessed 3 April 2019]

525 Q 36 (Tom Plant)

527 Written evidence from Dr Jenny Clegg (NPT0021)

528 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

530 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

533 Q 37 (Tom Plant)

539 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

543 US Department of State, ‘Interview With Roxana Saberi of CBS News’: https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2019/02/289467.htm [accessed 22 March 2019]

545 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

548 Written evidence from Trident Ploughshares (NPT0005)

549 Written evidence from the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization (NPT0049)

550 Ms Ballestas de Dietrich (NPT0027)

551 Written evidence from Medact (NPT0014) and written evidence from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom UK (NPT0023)

552 China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

553 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

554 Written evidence from the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organization (NPT0049)

556 Written evidence from Dr Leveringhaus (NPT0032)

557 Written evidence from Dr Adil Sultan Muhammad (NPT0032)

558 Written evidence from the Executive Committee of British Pugwash (NPT0003)

559 Written evidence from Franklin Miller (NPT0042)

560 Q 118 All three have signed the CTBT but have not yet ratified it.

561 Written evidence from Dr Jenny Clegg (NPT0021); US Department of Defense, ‘United States 2018 Nuclear Posture Review’: https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF [accessed 3 April 2019]

564 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

565 Conference on Disarmament, Rules of procedure of the Conference on Disarmament (19 December 2003): https://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/1F072EF4792B5587C12575DF003C845B/$file/RoP.pdf [accessed on 18 March 2019]

566 This issue was considered by several witnesses. Written evidence from Dr Rebecca Johnson (NPT0034), written evidence from Dr Lyndon Burford (NPT0043), and written evidence from A. Vinod Kumar (NPT0015)

567 Q 3 (Izumi Nakamitsu)

569 Q 10 (Izumi Nakamitsu)

570 Weapons-grade fissile materials include highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.

572 Written evidence from Lord Browne of Ladyton

573 Q 119 (Alexandra Bell)

574 Written evidence from A. Vinod Kumar (NPT0015)

575 Written evidence from A. Vinod Kumar (NPT0015)

577 Written evidence from Franklin Miller (NPT0042)

581 Written evidence from Medact (NPT0014)

582 Q 21 (Sarah Price)

585 Written evidence from the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) (NPT0020)

586 Written evidence from Lord Browne of Ladyton (NPT0044)

589 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

590 House of Commons Defence Committee, Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty (Fifteenth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 1734)

591 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

593 Written evidence from Jessica Cox (NPT0039)

595 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

608 Written evidence from Dr Tong Zhao (NPT0038)

610 Written evidence from Dr Tong Zhao (NPT0038)

612 Written evidence from Dr Jenny Clegg (NPT0021)

615 Written evidence from Sir Alan Duncan MP (NPT0050)

618 House of Commons Defence Committee, Missile Misdemeanours: Russia and the INF Treaty (Fifteenth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 1734)

619 Ibid.

621 Written evidence from Jessica Cox (NPT0039)

624 Written evidence from Dr James Cameron (NPT0032)

627 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

632 Written evidence from Mr Franklin Miller (NPT0042)

636 Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (NPT0035)

637 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

638 Written evidence from Lord Browne of Ladyton (NPT0044)

639 Written evidence from Andrey Baklitskiy (NPT0046)

640 Written evidence from Mr Franklin Miller (NPT0042); Mr Miller cited “the Helsinki Final Act; the Budapest Agreement; the Istanbul Accord; the George H.W. Bush–Gorbachev Presidential Nuclear Initiative; the George H. W. Bush–Yeltsin Presidential Nuclear Initiative; the Chemical Weapons Convention; the Open Skies Agreement; the Vienna Document; and the INF Treaty.”

642 Written evidence from Mr Franklin Miller (NPT0042)

643 Written evidence from Dr Brad Roberts (NPT0029)

644 Q 44 (Tom Plant)

647 Written evidence from Dr James Cameron (NPT0032)

648 Written evidence from Matt Korda (NPT0041)

649 Written evidence from Matt Korda (NPT0041)

650 Written evidence from Dr Tong Zhao (NPT0038)

651 Written evidence from Dr Adil Sultan Muhammed (NPT0032)

653 Written evidence from Dr James Cameron (NPT0032)

654 Written evidence from Dr Tong Zhao (NPT0038)

655 Q 121 (Dr Zhao)

656 Written evidence from Dr Nicola Leveringhaus (NPT0032)

657 Written evidence from Dr Nicola Leveringhaus (NPT0032)

658 Nuclear threshold states are those states with the likely technological capability to quickly develop nuclear weapons.




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