1. The US gives notice of withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
2. US Boycotts the UN Conference to Advance the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
3. US President George W. Bush pledges to reduce the US nuclear arsenal to between 1.700 and 2,200 strategic nuclear weapons over a period of ten years. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he will “respond in kind.”
4. The Ukraine destroys its last nuclear missile silo, fulfilling its pledge to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited after the dissolution of the USSR.
5. Germany decides to phase out nuclear power by 2025.
1. US Gives Notice of Withdrawal from ABM Treaty
President George W. Bush served formal notice to Russia on 13 December that the US is withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and proceeding with plans to develop and deploy the controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system prohibited by the treaty. In a speech, President Bush stated, “I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks. Defending the American people is my highest priority as Commander-in-Chief and I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defense.”
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov responded saying that the decision is regrettable, however, “Russia can be unconcerned with its defense systems. Maybe other nations should be concerned if the US chooses to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.” Russian President Vladimir Putin called the Bush decision “mistaken” and stated that, “The present level of bilateral cooperation between Russia and the United States should not only be preserved but also used for quickly working out new frameworks of strategic cooperation.”
In response to the announcement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue stated, “We’ve taken note of the relevant reports and express our concern. China is not in favor of missile defense systems. China worries about the negative impact. We think the relevant sides [of the ABM Treaty] should seek through constructive dialogue a solution that safeguards the global strategic balance and doesn’t harm international efforts at arms control and disarmament.”
According to Department of Defense plans, the next scheduled step is the construction of missile silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and the opening of a new North Pacific target testing range.
Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to the announcement, “Unilateral withdrawal will likely lead to an action-reaction cycle in offensive and defense technologies, including countermeasures. That kind of arms race would not make us more secure.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-Deleware), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also stated that withdrawing from the treaty could lead to a new arms race. According to Biden, “About eight months ago they were talking about weaponizing space. God help us when that moment comes.”
2. US Boycotts CTBT Conference
From 11-13 November, delegates from 118 countries attended the UN Conference to Advance the Entry Into Force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Japanese Ambassador Nobuyasu Abe called the treaty “a practical and concrete measure for realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world.” The US, which has not ratified the treaty, boycotts the conference.
In a related action, the US sought a procedural decision at the UN on 5 November to keep the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) off the agenda of the UN General Assembly. The US lost the vote by 140 to 1. The US also voted against a resolution introduced by Japan on nuclear disarmament which stresses the importance of taking practical steps to implement Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the early entry into force of the CTBT.
3. US/Russian Nuclear Reductions
At the beginning of a three-day US-Russian summit from 11-13 November, US President George W. Bush pledged to reduce the US nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 strategic nuclear weapons over a period of ten years. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he will “respond in kind.” The Bush pledge left out tactical nuclear weapons and those maintained in a hedge stockpile. Bush’s unilateral pledge is not binding on future US presidents and is therefore reversible. It also does not come down to even the level of 1,500 strategic warheads President Putin had previously and repeatedly offered.
4. Ukraine Destroys Last Nuclear Facility
On 1 November, the Ukraine destroyed its last nuclear missile silo, fulfilling its pledge to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited after the dissolution of the USSR. Under the US-Ukrainian Cooperative Threat Reduction, the silo was blown up at a military range in the southern Mykolaiv region near Pervomaisk. The land underneath the silo will now be cleaned up and converted to agricultural use.
In 1991, the Ukraine inherited the word’s third largest nuclear stockpile, including 130 SS-19 missiles, 46 SS-24 missiles and dozens of strategic bombers. After renouncing nuclear weapons, the Ukraine transferred all its nuclear missiles and warheads to Russia by 1996. Nuclear materials from the warheads were reprocessed and sent back to the Ukraine for use as fuel in nuclear power plants. In 1997, the Ukraine and the US signed a treaty on US assistance for dismantling 38 Tu-160s and Tu-95s bombers and more than 480 Kh-55 air-launch cruise missiles.
Serhiy Borodenkov, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, stated, “So far, Ukraine confirmed its commitment to secure peace and stability, and made a significant contribution to strengthening the international regime of arms nonproliferation.”
5. Germany To Phase Out Nuclear Power
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the nation’s leading energy companies formally signed an agreement on 11 June to shut down the country’s 19 civilian nuclear power reactors. The agreement will limit nuclear plants to an average of 32 years of operation and the power plants will be phased out over the next two decades with the most modern plants likely closing around 2021. The agreement also limits the amount of nuclear energy that current reactors can generate.
The agreement gained legislative backing on 17 December with approval in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament. The Bundesrat, the upper house in which Germany’s states are represented, must still debate the law but it has no power of veto. The draft law bans new nuclear power plants and subjects current plants to more stringent safety checks. After 1 July 2005, nuclear fuel reprocessing as well as the transport of nuclear fuel to and from reprocessing plants will be prohibited. Nuclear power currently provides about one third of the nation’s energy supply.