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RUSSIAN RETREAT AND A TRAGEDY IN POLAND
Last week, Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson and territory along the Dnipro River, demonstrating that they could not withstand the strong defenses put up by Ukrainian forces. Senior Policy Director John Erath argues in a new op-ed in The National Interest that Russia’s failed invasion is proof that nuclear weapons are of no military value. Why? Because Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and it hasn’t helped them avoid military defeat. Erath also told unaffiliated Russian-language news station RTVI late last month that he believes the risk of nuclear weapons use is still low.
Earlier this week, two people in Poland were accidentally killed by what is believed to be Ukrainian defense systems, though Ukraine denies this. Erath told Newsweek that regardless of whose equipment it was, “ultimately, the responsibility lies with Russia for starting the war.”
The United States’ top military officer said he was unable to reach his Russian counterpart in the immediate aftermath. Executive Director John Tierney told the Associated Press that this is worrisome and that open lines of communication “are vital if we are to avoid the risk of conflict caused by misconception, miscalculations or mistake.” His unabridged quote acknowledged, however, that other Biden administration officials were in touch with their counterparts.
“By the end of this decade, when modernization spending as now projected is set to peak, nuclear weapons could account for nearly 10 percent of total U.S. national defense spending. Nothing about the situation in Ukraine recommends such a course. If anything, Russia’s lack of military success, despite possessing the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, argues for less U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons for anything beyond deterrence,” she writes.
NUCLEAR POSTURE REVIEW TAKES ‘SOME STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION’
The Biden administration released on October 27 its long-awaited unclassified Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the document that details its nuclear weapons policies.
Our analysts read all 80 pages and broke down the key policies in a two-page explainer covering the Biden administration’s stances on the role and purpose of nuclear weapons; support and rejection of particular weapons systems; follow-on talks to the only remaining nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia; engagement with China and Iran, and more.
In a statement released to the press immediately after the document was published, Executive Director John Tierney said that while the Center is pleased that the NPR “takes some steps in the right direction” to reduce nuclear risks and promote global nuclear arms control, we are “disappointed that it does not go far enough toward reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing nuclear threats.”
Policy Analyst Monica Montgomery told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the NPR shows that the Biden administration is still prioritizing plutonium pit production, which she said is unnecessary to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile.
NORTH KOREA RAMPS UP MISSILE TESTS; BIDEN WARNS OF ‘DEFENSIVE ACTION’
President Joe Biden warned that the United States would take unspecified defensive action against North Korea if it continues provocative missile launches. Biden met with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Sunday and agreed on a unified and coordinated response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Washington and Seoul conducted one of their largest joint military air exercises earlier this month as a united show of allied power, but recent escalatory maneuvers from North Korea have prompted Japan and South Korea to shore up their deterrence capabilities rather than rely on their alliances with the United States.
Biden then met Chinese President Xi Jinping Monday at the Group of 20 (G20) summit. Despite warm rhetoric and agreements to work together on some issues, Biden also told his Chinese counterpart that Beijing had “an obligation” to dissuade North Korea from further test-firing nuclear missiles. U.S. officials have criticized China for enabling Pyongyang’s missile development and nuclear weapons program. Despite the UN Security Council sanctions against the country, China and Russia have failed to properly enforce measures that would restrict critical materials from reaching the hermit kingdom.
North Korea ratcheted up tensions earlier this month with 26 missile tests, 180 military flights and hundreds of artillery shelling near the border Korean regions. One of these missiles landed about 35 miles off South Korea’s coastline. Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan in September and launched another ICBM on Friday that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone as Vice President Kamala Harris attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum in Bangkok, Thailand. She called on the DPRK to “stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts” and affirmed the U.S. commitment to its Indo-Pacific partners.
WAR IN UKRAINE AND PROTESTS JEOPARDIZE IRAN DEAL
Iranian drone sales to Russia and the Iranian regime’s crushing of recent protests have dashed the chances of a new Iran deal for now. The United States, United Kingdom and European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran in response to their sale of Shahed suicide drones to Russia, which have been used to cripple Ukraine’s energy network.
The EU further sanctioned Tehran’s security forces for their crackdown of protestors and continued air strikes in northern Iraq.
The U.S. Special Envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, solidified pessimism around the agreement saying that the United States is focused on matters with Iran “where we can be useful” and is not going to “waste our time … if nothing’s going to happen.” European allies reiterated the sentiment. French President Emmanuel Macron said that a “new framework” will likely be needed to revive a future nuclear deal with Iran.
GOOD ELECTION RESULTS FOR COUNCIL ENDORSEES
The pundits, pollsters and politicians were all wrong: an election that was pointing to a red wave with the GOP taking the House by a sizable margin and a chance of winning the Senate fizzled.
Despite President Joe Biden’s poor approval rating, it was the best midterm showing by a first-term Democratic President since President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
The Council endorsed 26 House candidates, and so far, 25 have been called by the Associated Press or conceded. Of those 25, 21 of our House candidates have won. In the Senate, six of the nine Council-endorsed candidates won their elections. The full list is at the bottom of this email. Our work now turns to helping those endorsees shape the agenda for the next Congress to continue pushing for reduced reliance on nuclear weapons and diplomacy-first foreign policy.
CONGRESS RETURNS WITH EXTENSIVE AGENDA
Congress returned to work from the election break this week and faces a substantial agenda, including on national security issues.
One of the major bills on the agenda in the lame duck is the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Citing Russian aggression in Ukraine and a Chinese nuclear and conventional weapon buildup, the Biden administration proposed a whopping $813 billion military budget. The House has hiked that total by $37 billion and the Senate added even more at $44 billion.
House-Senate committees have been working at a staff level to reconcile the two bills, but Members of Congress will make the final decisions on the big items. It won’t be a pretty sight, but the Council is working hard to promote policies we support in the bill
Two appropriations bills are also in play, the Fiscal Year 2023 Defense Appropriations and Energy and Water Appropriations bills. Congress has until December 16 to pass either a full appropriations package or another stopgap measure to fund the government.
NEW FACT SHEETS HIGHLIGHT TREATIES, CLOSE CALLS
Center staffers have been hard at work updating and creating new fact sheets. We typically send these brief summaries to Congress when relevant to quickly bring them up to speed on critical issues, but we also send them to the media, the public and, of course, supporters like you.
We believe that a solid understanding of where we’ve been is essential to navigating these increasingly turbulent times. As we seek to inform lawmakers and the public about the past, these history lessons also serve as a warning for the present and future: as long as nuclear weapons exist, so do severe dangers.
THE LATEST IN BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL THREATS Members of the Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical Security, which the Center has hosted since 2003, have been busy writing and being interviewed in the news lately. Here’s the latest:
MONICA MONTGOMERY: POLICIES FOR PEACE Council Political Director and Center Policy Analyst Monica Montgomery was profiled as a woman in science by Frontiers Science News. In this interview, she explains how a college trip to the Vatican inspired her to work in nuclear weapons policy and how she hopes her work will lead to a renewed consensus in Washington that arms control is good for U.S. national security. She also discusses the importance of diversity in the nuclear policy field and how other women in the field have helped her get where she is today.
NUCLEAR READING AND ART RECOMMENDATIONS In September, we shared with you reading recommendations from Executive Director and former Congressman John Tierney and asked if you had any of your own.
Elections are over and now it’s time for the Council to ramp up its advocacy work 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!
Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX-32)
Becca Balint (D-VT-AL)
Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA-06)
Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA-08)
Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN-02)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-37)
Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-11)
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-08)
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06)
Jeff Jackson (D-NC-14)
Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA-51)
Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ-03)
Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-02)
Greg Landsman (D-OH-01)
Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM-03)
Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA-49)
Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-02)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05)
Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA-47)
Eric Sorensen (D-IL-17)
Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA-07)
Jay Chen (D-CA-45)
Eric Lynn (D-FL-13)
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-07)
Christy Smith (D-CA-27)
Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK-AL)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
John Fetterman (D-PA)
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
Mandela Barnes (D-WI)
Cheri Beasley (D-NC)
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
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