UKRAINE LIBERATES KHARKIV REGION; SPECTER OF NUCLEAR WAR RISES
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walked through the streets of Izyum in the country’s Kharkiv region, which was liberated from Russian forces as part of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have recovered more than 3,000 square kilometers of territory during September, in what many commentators have called a stunning defeat for Russia.
Some security experts fear that the losses of this counteroffensive may encourage President Vladimir Putin to use a nuclear weapon. Even though there would be little to no military utility in destroying territory Russia hopes to reconquer, a desperate situation raises the possibility of desperate measures. Although Putin will try to blame the west for any decision he makes, the risk of catastrophe argues stronger than ever for diplomacy over violence.
IRAN NEGOTIATIONS STALL…AGAIN
The E3 — France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — published a joint statement last week expressing their worry that Iran is not seriously committed to a successful outcome for a new Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This comes after a probe by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which found trace nuclear particles in several Iranian sites that Iran has yet to explain. Tehran demanded that the probe be shut down. Leaked IAEA documents reveal that the agency was, “not in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.” Iran also dismantled IAEA cameras at several nuclear sites, making international inspections even more difficult.
Following a “final proposal” by the European Union in late August, Tehran submitted an official response with amendments that was met coolly in Washington. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the amendments “extraneous” and not “relevant to the JCPOA itself.” Despite higher hopes for an agreement in August, questions remain that so far stop any chance for a new deal.
JOIN OUR SISTER ORGANIZATION AND SEN. ED MARKEY FOR MIDTERMS PREVIEW
As a newsletter subscriber, we wanted you to be the first to know about an online event our sister organization, Council for a Livable World, is hosting with longtime arms control champion Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET over Zoom.
Council experts will detail the political landscape going into the midterms and what’s at stake when it comes to nuclear weapons and national security policy. They will take questions at the end, so be sure to submit a question for our panelists when you register. Register now!
NORTH KOREA CODIFIES NUCLEAR STATUS
During a Parliamentary address earlier in September, Kim Jong-Un declared North Korea a nuclear state, meaning that if its nuclear weapons were ever theoretically on the negotiating table, they now no longer are. Kim also celebrated newly passed legislation codifying North Korea’s right to use a nuclear weapon first if it felt it were under threat of forced regime change.
Analysts believe that North Korea is preparing to resume nuclear testing soon, pointing to a sharp uptick of in activity at its Punggye-ri underground test site. The state North Korea conducted its last nuclear test in 2017. Following the Kim’s announcement, the Biden administration reiterated its non-hostile position toward North Korea and offered again to meet with North Korean officials without conditions.
The Center has just updated its fact sheet on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, and new Research Analyst Connor Murray has just written a new blog post on why North Korea and the myriad global nuclear crises remind him why he got into this field in the first place. Likewise, Senior Policy Director John Erath wrote a blog post comparing the United Kingdom’s command and control structure to North Korea’s.
BUILDING A NEW ICBM
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) has sought to block building new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) called the Sentinel, arguing it would be simpler and cheaper to modernize the existing Minuteman missiles rather than build new ones. The Air Force has suggested that Garamendi’s case was off-base.
However, the Project on Government Oversight’s Mark Thompson, a former defense reporter, recently pointed out that the Air Force now plans to spend billions modernizing the 70-year old B-52 bombers — older than the grandparents of the pilots that fly them — that have a history of turbulent takeoffs and landings, and long flights, while the existing ICBMs have been sitting in comfortable deep silos protected from bad weather and sun. The Air Force modernization will proceed at the same time that it is building a new B-21 Raider bomber. Thompson goes on to point to a Pentagon-funded September 7 study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that warned that ICBMs could have a “declining strategic value” as ever-more accurate non-nuclear weapons could wipe out fixed targets like ICBMs.
CLOCK RUNNING ON SPENDING BILLS
The Congressional clock is running. With not much time to meet this month and elections looming, only one piece of legislation is definitely on the agenda: a Continuing Resolution, which authorizes federal discretionary spending for the upcoming fiscal year starting Oct. 1 at the previous year’s levels, until the Senate and House agree on new appropriations bills for the year.
The annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, is still awaiting floor action in the Senate — likely not until after the midterms — after the House passed its version earlier this summer. As a reminder, here’s the Center’s summary of the version of the bill the House passed in June.
NUCLEAR READING RECOMMENDATIONSExecutive Director John Tierney has put together a list of reading recommendations for anyone interested in learning more about nuclear weapons history, policy and human victims.
Do you have any favorite nuclear weapons books that aren’t on this list? We’d love to hear from you; email Communications Director Anna Schumann and let us know!