Urgent Steps Recommended to Reduce Nuclear Risks at July 16 Trump-Putin Summit

The Nuclear Crisis Group welcomes the announced summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Russia, the United States and NATO have multiple disagreements and potential points of conflict. It is because of these disagreements, not in spite of them, that the two leaders should use their planned July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland to reverse the dangerous trajectory of nuclear dynamics between the world’s largest nuclear-armed states. At their summit, the leaders should take concrete steps to reverse the new nuclear arms race, improve bilateral stability, and reduce the risk that nuclear weapons will be used by accident, miscalculation or intent.

Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, Russia and America were able to negotiate verified and codified arms control agreements to manage their nuclear competition. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is the most recent of these agreements, and must be extended beyond its current expiration date to provide stability to the frayed relationship. The two sides have not been engaged in any ongoing arms control talks since the 2010 New START agreement was completed. This is the longest such hiatus in arms control talks since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Real political and security grievances between the U.S. and Russia should not be ignored, but must not prevent them from taking every opportunity to lower nuclear risks.

In June 2017, the Nuclear Crisis Group released a set of urgent recommendations to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and called on national leaders to act now to reduce the unacceptably high risk of nuclear conflict. The report calls for the United States and Russia to immediately re-engage on nuclear weapon and strategic stability issues to resolve current treaty disputes and reduce the risk of conflict that could quickly escalate to nuclear weapon use.

The Nuclear Crisis Group calls on leaders to pursue these immediate steps:

  • Agree to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START);
  • Urgently resume effective US-Russia and NATO-Russia high-level dialogues and military-to-military discussions;
  • Rapidly launch US-Russia strategic stability talks focusing on potential dangers flowing from existing and potential nuclear deployments, doctrines and modernization programs;
  • Initiate immediate and intensive discussions to resolve Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty compliance concerns, including use of the Special Verification Commission;
  • Fully implement, strengthen existing and pursue new accident-prevention agreements related to aviation and incidents at sea beginning with the Baltics and Black Sea regions;
  • Agree to limits and be more transparent on exercises (i.e., better prior notification, limit scale), preferably by modernizing the Vienna Document and constraining certain exercises, such as strategic bomber flight profiles, integration of nuclear elements in conventional exercises, and large, quick deployment military exercises near national borders;
  • Establish a commitment by Russia, the United States and other NATO states not to issue public threats of nuclear first use;
  • Reinvigorate European conventional arms control efforts, including limitation of forward deployments of conventional weapons, stabilization of the Open Skies Treaty, replacement of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and modernization of the Vienna Document; and
  • Implement existing agreements for a Joint Data Exchange Center as a first step to expanding nuclear discussions to other nuclear states.

Additionally, the Nuclear Crisis Group urged these follow-on steps:

  • Examine and define the conditions under which the states could adopt bilateral or multilateral nuclear no-first-use agreements;
  • Pursue a phased de-alerting program of all land-based nuclear-armed missiles;
  • Agree to place all tactical nuclear weapons into central storage under verification; and
  • Broaden future arms control discussions to include additional nuclear reductions, as well as missile defense and precision-strike weapons, and include other nuclear weapon countries as participants or observers.

“The recommendations put forward by the Nuclear Crisis Group are vital to minimize nuclear-related tension between the United States, its European allies and Russia,” added Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group and former Senior Director at the U.S. National Security Council. “These steps could restore U.S. and Russian leadership in nuclear arms control and reset the stage for global action to reverse current nuclear trends.”

For a full list of Nuclear Crisis Group members, click here: https://bit.ly/2KhMqb8

For more information, or to speak with Nuclear Crisis Group Director Jon Wolfsthal, please contact Jordan Wilhelmi at +1-612-281-2310 or by email at [email protected].