Rocket models are stuck in a bucket during a February protest action in Berlin against the imminent withdrawal of the INF disarmament agreement between Russia and the USA. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa

An ambitious arms control agenda requires a new organization equal to the task

By James E. Goodby, David A. Koplow, January 12, 2021

An exceedingly challenging agenda of urgent, important, and diverse arms control issues awaits the incoming Biden administration. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) will surely be a top priority, as the newly-installed leadership team undertakes to pursue promptly whatever interim steps the Trump administration takes in its waning days, including establishing a structure for future deeper, verifiable cuts in strategic and other nuclear weapons, as well as the possibility of engaging China. Simultaneously, the arms control experts in the new administration will find themselves preoccupied by the tasks of picking up the pieces left from the Trump administration’s wreckage of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Treaty on Open Skies, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. Of course, the global coronavirus pandemic has cast new light on the unresolved problem of biological weapons and bio-terrorism, eliciting fresh interest in augmenting the Biological Weapons Convention, and the outrageous uses of Novichok chemical weapons in attempted assassinations by Russia will drive more attention to the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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Before anyone has a chance to take a breath, the review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be upon us—originally scheduled for May 2020, but postponed to August 2021. This is one of the most consequential diplomatic conclaves, requiring detailed preparation and high-level engagement. The new Biden team will also be charged with revivifying conventional arms control, as the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty is struggling on life support.

The authors dedicate this essay to former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, tireless champion of a world free of nuclear weapons, on the occasion of his 100th birthday on December 13, 2020.

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