Meanwhile, Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling continues as it showcased on television a new nuclear-capable missile just weeks after de-ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The new intercontinental ballistic missile with a purported hypersonic glide reentry vehicle was built to evade missile defenses. Despite Russian boasts of nuclear superiority, Senior Policy Director John Erath told Newsweek that its stockpile “hasn’t helped much in its war of aggression.” Erath makes this point often, for good reason: if nuclear weapons had any battlefield utility, Russia could well have used them by now.
Further, Russia’s withdrawal from the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which set limits on the number of conventional weapons and supplies NATO members and the former Soviet Warsaw Pact countries could have in Europe, led the United States and NATO members to follow suit. Erath told Voice of America that these actions have few practical implications, except the United States now loses access to annual reports on conventional forces from other treaty signatories.
FEDERAL SHUTDOWN AVERTED (FOR NOW)
Congress passed a second short-term continuing resolution (CR) this week to avert a government shutdown. The CR has staggered deadlines for different government funding bills. Four of the bills (Energy and Water, Agriculture-FDA, Military Construction-VA and Transportation-HUD) will expire on January 19 while the other eight will expire on February 2.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) relied heavily on House Democrats to pass the CR and it remains to be seen how that will affect his negotiating position in the coming months. It is clear, however, that Speaker Johnson may face a similar conservative revolt as his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.
The Senate quickly passed the CR as well and President Joe Biden signed it into law before the November 17 deadline. A tough road still lies ahead as the CR did not include policy riders favored by the most conservative Members of Congress. The House has so far passed eight of its appropriations bills in regular order while the Senate has only passed three.
A FEW NOTES ON THE DAY AFTER, OPPENHEIMER AND NEW NUCLEAR-RELATED BOOKS
Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the release of The Day After, the record-breaking TV film illustrating life in Kansas before and after a nuclear war has broken out. The film is sometimes credited with leading President Ronald Reagan to the arms control table with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and ultimately with the signing and implementation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons.
STAY TUNED: The team behind the Center’s Nukes of Hazard podcast is working on a new episode about nuclear-related films like The Day After and Oppenheimer, and just interviewed David Craig, the author of Apocalypse Television: How The Day After Helped End the Cold War, which is now available for purchase. We can’t wait to share this episode with you soon! We’re also reading The MANIAC, an unconventional fiction tale of Manhattan Project physicist John von Neumann by Benjamín Labatut.
IRAN INCREASES URANIUM ENRICHMENT AS ATTACKS CONTINUE
Iranian-backed militia groups have increasingly instigated attacks against U.S. servicemembers in the region as the Israel-Gaza conflict has dragged on. In response, the United States has issued limited attacks against these groups and has targeted sites in Syria linked to the Iranian regime. Meanwhile, UN inspectors recently reported that Iran has again increased its stockpile of 60% highly-enriched uranium.
NORTH KOREA SHUTTERS DIPLOMATIC MISSIONS WORLDWIDE, CONTINUES MISSILE TESTS
In recent weeks, North Korea has announced that it plans to close as many as a dozen diplomatic missions worldwide, withdrawing its presence from Hong Kong, Spain and several African nations. At the same time, it has been estimated that the North has transferred more than one million artillery shells to Russia since early August, while South Korean intelligence services believe that the DPRK has been receiving technical assistance and consultation on its space-launch program in return as it appears to be gearing up for a third attempted launch of its spy satellite. Most recently, North Korea claims to have conducted a successful static test of a new solid-fuel engine for its intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
CONGRESSIONAL RETIREMENTS RAMP UP
Congressional retirements occur for a variety of reasons such as running for a different office, redistricting, or simply actual retirement. However, these retirements can also be political signals of what certain Members of Congress expect from the next election. In recent weeks, there have been a number of retirements for a variety of reasons, including some that will have a significant impact on next year’s election. Most notable, perhaps, was Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) announcement that he would not seek reelection. This gives Republicans, who already had a favorable map to regain the Senate majority, an almost automatic pickup. A full list of congressional retirements can be found here.
NEW ON THE NUKES OF HAZARD BLOG: NEW B61-13 BOMB, THE CHINA DILEMMA
The Latest Nuclear Boondoggle? The Biden administration recently announced plans to develop a new gravity bomb, the B61-13, for the U.S. arsenal. This new bomb comes on the heels of over a decade of Pentagon officials selling the B61-12 as the weapon that would take over all gravity bomb missions. Research Analyst Connor Murray expands on the questionable utility of this weapon, arguing: “Rather than seeking to add to the mission set, the administration should work with congressional and nongovernmental experts to adapt current capabilities to fill defense and deterrence needs without expanding offensive capabilities. The United States should be looking for ways to increase efficiency in nuclear spending, not add yet another weapon at high cost with limited, if any, usefulness.”
The China Dilemma: For the first time since the Cold War, the number of nuclear weapons in the world increased in 2022 — largely due to China’s rapid construction of new weapons. Senior Policy Director John Erath writes that while it may be comfortable to explain away China’s nuclear expansion as a reaction to U.S. and Russian nuclear modernization, this is too easy; China has clearly decided to build more nuclear weapons for its own reason, and how to engage in an arms control dialogue has created a dilemma — because now is the time.
NEW FACT SHEETS: THE MORE YOU KNOW
Sino-Soviet Border Dispute: The latest in the Center’s fact sheets on nuclear crises and close calls, this fact sheet details the tit-for-tat exchanges along the Ussuri River in 1969 that almost led to nuclear use between China and the Soviet Union.
North Korean Missile Tests: North Korea has steadily ramped up its missile development over the years, conducting more than 244 tests of varying missile capabilities. This fact sheet details the evolution of missile pursuits over the course of the Kim dynasty.
Artificial Intelligence: This new fact sheet defines the leading applications of artificial intelligence and explains its possible implications for non-proliferation. For example, AI will likely facilitate access to peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, including nuclear materials that could be diverted or abused for illicit purposes.
Biotechnology: Biotechnology holds many promises for the future, but also opens new pathways to dangerous capabilities. For example, biotech has the potential to improve vaccine resistance and the environmental sustainability of the commercial products, but will likely also give more actors the ability to explore pathogen research and the engineering of novel viruses.
Computing and Cyber Tools: Emerging cyber tools and computational capabilities will expand and connect the digital world in ways that will create new opportunities and new cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Explore the promise and proliferation concerns of quantum technologies, cloud computing and the Internet of Things.
Nanotechnology: A multidisciplinary field that looks at how to manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic level to produce new materials, devices and organic structures can pose proliferation concerns, including the potential miniaturization and increased sensitivity of sensor technologies that could improve monitoring and verification of nuclear stockpiles and testing.
Autonomous Weapons: With the recent demonstration of the emergence of autonomous weapons on the battlefield in both Ukraine and Israel as prime examples of their significance, these systems are attractive due to their cheap production costs and ability to save human lives, while their expendability and ease of use provide asymmetric advantages that incentivize their proliferation.
Space Weapons: A growing interest in the space domain has led to the emergence of new weapon systems that could pose threats to both space and terrestrial objects. For example, the combination of growing appetite among nations to bolster military presence in space combined with the commercialization of the space industry is leading to more actors, both public and private, entering the space race.
Hypersonic Weapons: Hypersonic weapons have come to capture the attention and imagination of defense and non-defense specialists alike, but their current intrigue and proliferation is being driven by a combination of reactionary policy decisions and a disconnect between strategic planning and technology acquisition.
OUR ENDORSED CANDIDATES LIST KEEPS GROWING
The Council has been hard at work vetting and endorsing candidates who are running for election or reelection in 2024. Here’s a map of our current endorsed candidates: we’re now in 12 states with more coming soon.
You can also find bios and donation links for all of candidates on our respective House and Senate candidate list pages. As a reminder, the Council is now and has always been nonpartisan; unfortunately, like nearly every other issue in Washington today, nuclear arms control has become an issue that is perceived as partisan and that therefore often limits who we endorse.
As election season begins, 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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