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LONGTIME ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVIST DANIEL ELLSBERG HAS DIED
Daniel Ellsberg, the man best known for leaking the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, died Friday. Ellsberg was a longtime anti-war and anti-nuclear weapons activist who, when he announced his decision to decline chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer in March, pledged to spend the time he had left speaking about the dangers of nuclear war, among other critical issues. At the Council and Center, we were proud to work with him often, most recently in 2018 when our staff set up meetings between him and Members of Congress to discuss his book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. We will remember his courage and lifelong efforts to build a just and sensible national security posture and to keep government accountable as we continue to work toward those same goals.
RUSSIA BEGINS NUCLEAR DEPLOYMENT TO BELARUS
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country’s armed forces would begin deploying tactical or sub-strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus on July 7 and 8 — a few days before a NATO summit in Lithuania. Western observers widely perceive this move as an effort to intimidate NATO leaders including members of the Bucharest Nine — NATO members in Eastern Europe — who have floated the idea of Ukrainian accession to the security bloc. As Senior Policy Director John Erath told Deutsche Welle in April, moving nuclear weapons to Belarus is militarily insignificant, but sends a message that Russia will continue to use its nuclear arsenal to try to blackmail adversaries into favorable treatment.
On the war in Ukraine, Russia removed nuclear munitions from a storage facility in Belgorod after Ukrainian-backed soldiers briefly seized control of surrounding settlements.
UNLIKELY BIPARTISAN COALITIONS COULD SIGNAL CONGRESSIONAL READINESS TO TRIM U.S. PRESENCE OVERSEAS
Sets of unlikely bedfellows could signal readiness in Congress to reengage in a long overdue conversation about the scope of the U.S. military’s presence overseas, writes Senior Fellow John Isaacs in The Hill. The talking points espoused by advocates of troop removal, who otherwise seem diametrically opposed on almost every issue, echo familiar cries from politicians and experts alike who argue that the U.S. presence in foreign countries could sometimes exacerbate, rather than prevent, conflict.
STATE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES NEW START ‘COUNTERMEASURES’
In last month’s newsletter, we told you about the United States’ continued commitment to data exchanges under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). However, the Department of State announced on June 1 that the United States would be implementing so-called “countermeasures” to Russia’s noncompliance with reporting and verification under the agreement. Importantly, these countermeasures are somewhat easily reversible. Some of the countermeasures date back to March and include:
Suspension of the biannual data exchange under New START
Suspension of notifications including updates on the status or location of treaty-accountable items such as missiles and launchers
Suspension of inspection activities under New START which had already been on hold since the invasion of Ukraine
Not providing telemetric information on launches of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)
UNITED STATES DENIES RUMORS OF INTERIM IRAN DEAL
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani confirmed that the United States and Iran held indirect talks last month in Oman. The Biden administration has not yet corroborated such claims and has denied reports that there might be an interim Iran nuclear deal, but the story follows rumors from the Israeli press that dialogue had resumed. Kanaani said that his government discussed sanctions with his American counterparts. News outlets report that a top White House official traveled to Oman secretly at the same time as an Iranian delegation which included top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kan. Washington allegedly sent a strong message of deterrence to clarify that Iran would pay a heavy price if it moved forward toward 90% uranium enrichment.
NORTH KOREA SHIPS MORE WEAPONS TO RUSSIA
Washington officials voiced concern that North Korea may ship more weapons to Russia to support Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un vowed to bolster his country’s strategic cooperation with Russia on Russia’s national holiday. The United States confirmed that Pyongyang had already sent weapons to the Wagner Group — a Russian state-supported mercenary group — in November 2022. In March of this year, American officials worried that Russia was negotiating for additional weapons in return for food aid and sanctioned a Slovakian man who reportedly participated in negotiations.
AFTER DEBT CEILING FIGHT, DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION PROCESS UNDERWAY
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and President Joe Biden reached an agreement to raise the debt limit just days before a potential default. The deal was a genuine compromise that caused portions of both parties to be uncomfortable with the tradeoffs. Ultimately, the agreement passed both chambers with significant bipartisan support. Under the deal, non-defense spending is set at Fiscal Year 2022 levels while defense spending is set at the Biden administration’s requested level. Limits are also placed on how much discretionary spending can increase in the coming years.
With the debt ceiling fight now over, the House of Representatives began markup on the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act on June 13. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) committed to marking up his legislation to the $886 billion topline set by the Biden administration. The Senate will hold subcommittee markups on June 20 and 21.
Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are set for full committee markups on June 21. The House language thus far includes increased funding for nuclear weapons, like the nuclear-capable submarine launched cruise missile (SLCM-N), that the Council opposes. Arms control and non-proliferation, as well as nuclear cleanup funding, were targeted to pay for the weapons increases and keep the topline intact. Our champions will have the opportunity to offer amendments at the full committee and House floor stages.
WASTEFUL PENTAGON WISH LISTS SUBVERT BUDGET PROCESS
The military is currently required by statute to submit so-called “unfunded priorities lists” (UPLs) to Congress each year. These lists are often in the millions of dollars and are a clear subversion of the traditional budget process because the military is not required to justify these lists the way they are their budget requests. The Council was proud to join a group of partner organizations calling on Armed Services Committee leadership in both chambers of Congress to repeal the statutory requirement. Among other things, our letter highlighted that funding these requests “only exacerbates the department’s existing financial mismanagement issues.”
CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENT SEASON IS UPON US
It still might seem as though the 2022 election was yesterday, but campaigns and candidates across the country are already hard at work for 2024. The Council has similarly been hard at work moving candidates through our endorsement process. Be on the lookout in the near term for announcements of our first batch of endorsees. We are excited about these candidates and hope you will join us in helping them get elected next year.
NEW ON THE NUKES OF HAZARD BLOG: BIOSECURITY, TRANSPARENCY, A NUCLEAR DATABASE AND SOVIET NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The end of the cornerstone of biosecurity preparedness:Scoville Fellow Sophia Macartney writes that the end of data-sharing mandates as a result of the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) means putting the United States in a more vulnerable position to future biological threats, intentional or unintentional. The threat of a biological catastrophe has risen to threat levels comparable to that of nuclear catastrophe, but preparedness and prevention are not as ingrained into biosecurity as in nuclear security.
U.S. release of nuclear data promotes New START transparency amid nuclear tension: Research Analyst Matthew Teasdale writes that the public release of U.S. nuclear data under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is a positive development considering the absence of dialogue. “Enhancing transparency stabilizes the global environment and reduces the likelihood of misperception, miscalculation and costly arms competitions.”
A book, nuclear weapons, means and ends: Senior Policy Director John Erath writes that the latest book from Mariana Budjeryn, Inheriting the Bomb, should be required reading for policymakers and students of arms control. The book examines Ukraine’s nuclear legacy and the process by which it gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union. Erath, a 30-year State Department veteran with expertise in Eastern Europe, writes that multiple U.S. administrations incorrectly defined denuclearizing Ukraine as the goal, rather than a means to a greater end of stabilizing the region. Budjeryn was a guest on our Nukes of Hazard podcast last year discussing her book and the legacy of the Soviet nuclear arsenal.
Election season is almost upon us, but right now the Council is still hard at work on its advocacy on Capitol Hill. Have you considered making a monthly donation to support our efforts to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear threats through political action? You can donate as little as $1 a month. Become a monthly supporter today!
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