Coronavirus CSS Blog

Keeping the 2020 Momentum Around Nuclear Issues Alive

Image courtesy of Tech. Sgt. Brian Ferguson/DVIDS

This blog belongs to the CSS’ coronavirus blog series, which forms a part of the center’s analysis of the security policy implications of the coronavirus crisis. See the CSS special theme page on the coronavirus for more.

Various nuclear milestones in 2020 have provided important opportunities to raise awareness on the role of nuclear weapons in national security strategies, their impact on communities, the state of arms control treaties, and progress in nuclear disarmament. While the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on its 50th anniversary was rescheduled due to the pandemic, the delay could enable member states to further engage in dialogue, seek compromises, and suggest new initiatives. Depending on when and how the conference will eventually take place, the coronavirus crisis might even bring much-needed change to conference proceedings.

The Lesson of Russia’s Serial Treaty Violations

Russian “Topol” missile. Image: Vitaly Kuzmin/Wikimedia

This article was originally published as “Russia’s Treaty Violations & Nuclear Instability” by Real Clear Defense on 15 September 2014.

Last week, US officials began talks in Moscow regarding Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The agreement bans the testing or deployment of intermediate range cruise and ballistic missiles, those with a range between 500km and 5500 km. In its annual 2014 arms control Compliance Report, the Department of State noted that Russia had violated the pact when it deployed a ground-launched cruise missile, whose unique Iskandar system can fire both cruise and ballistic missiles and a system Russia plans to deploy to Crimea. This cruise missile is not a new development; it was first tested in 2007 and has been deployed in the banned ground-launched configuration since 2009. Nor is it Russia’s only INF violation. Moscow also has converted a single-warhead ICBM into a three-warhead intermediate-range ballistic missile, a violation missing from the 2014 Compliance Report.


The Iraq Action Team: a model for monitoring and verification of WMD non-proliferation

US President Barack Obama and IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Image by United Nations Photo/flickr.

The United Nations Special Commission and the Iraq Action Team

The UN Security Council first took the initiative to create its own verification disarmament unit under the provisions of Resolution 687, adopted after the Kuwait war in 1991. At that time, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) became the first subsidiary organ of the Security Council, and was tasked with supervising the removal and destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—including its chemical, biological and missile capabilities—and relevant delivery systems, and with measures to prevent their reconstitution.

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (DGIAEA)—as opposed to the IAEA secretariat itself, with its institutional structures and decision-making bodies—had been given responsibility for the nuclear-related tasks. In order to fulfil his obligations, the Director General set up the Iraq Action Team, which was also independent of the IAEA’s formal structures, including the Department of Safeguards.

The Iraq Action Team had a two-fold mandate in Iraq: to remove and destroy nuclear-related material and equipment; and to manage an ongoing monitoring and verification programme. It reported the results of its technical analyses to the DGIAEA, who in turn reported the findings to the UN Security Council.

Playing Nuclear Chicken in the Middle East

Photo: rh2network/flickr

Because they raise the costs of war to almost unbearable levels, neo-realists have argued that nuclear weapons exert a stabilizing influence on the conduct of international relations. In practice, however, nuclear proliferation remains one of the major threats to international peace and security today. Specifically in the Middle East, one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world, the fear of a nuclear arms race has persisted for quite some time. Only last week, the United States and other Western governments have stepped up the pressure on Iran after the latest IAEA report on its allegedly peaceful nuclear activities.

Rethinking Nuclear Non-Proliferation

New York. The 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is underway at the UN Headquarters. Hundreds of representatives from states, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations have come together on the banks of the East River to discuss the regime that governs the containment of nuclear weapons on the one hand and the promotion of civil nuclear energy on the other hand.

How to save the non-proliferation regime? photo: Jean-David et Anne-Laure, flickr

Zurich. The International Relations and Security Network (ISN) presents hundreds of news articles, policy briefs, scholarly publications, weblinks and primary resources on the NPT and related topics. A few highlights:

  • In “Cost of War: NPT Enmity” Shaun Waterman comments for ISN Security Watch on the showdown between Iran and the US and the long-term impact of the review conference.
  • In the ISN Special Issue newsletter from March 2010, David Cliff asks whether the elimination of nuclear weapons is desirable, achievable and sustainable.
  • Nuclear Dangers“, an ISN Special Report from April 2009, examines two pressing perils standing in the way of a nuclear-free world: acquisition of nuclear weapons by emerging powers and smuggling of nuclear material out of former Soviet states.
  • Reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty“, a new book by the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College (SSI), an ISN partner,  clarifies the NPT’s ambiguities by following its structure article by article.
  • NPT Briefing Books” published by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), another ISN partner, offer comprehensive background and reference material on the NPT and its associated regime.