The Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation works every day to keep the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous people. As 2022 draws to a close, we’re taking stock of the past year and sharing our notable nonproliferation successes.
Responding to the Russian Federation’s Unjust War Against Ukraine
Earlier this year, the Russian Federation ruthlessly expanded its unprovoked and unjust war against the Ukrainian people. Working with a wide coalition of 37 allies and partners, we imposed extensive sanctions and export controls on Russia and on Belarus for its support of Russia’s war. We then provided assistance to over 75 countries to implement and enforce these measures, which deny Russia access to critical technologies and degrade the Kremlin’s ability to carry out its imperial ambitions. ISN’s efforts included:
- Designating more than 250 entities and individuals related to Russia’s defense, technology, electronics, and maritime sectors for sanctions;
- Disrupting Russian sanctions evasion, sensitive procurements, and maritime and air shipping, and deterring billions of dollars in Russian arms exports;
- Working with partners to implement a sweeping series of stringent export controls – targeting Russia’s defense, aerospace and maritime industries — to severely constrict Russia’s access to technologies needed to sustain its aggressive military capabilities; and
- Providing nearly $80 million in support items for Ukraine to counter Russian aggression, including mitigating the potential use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
Success at Two Treaty Review Conferences
In August, the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) drew to a close. Of the almost 150 States Parties gathered at the UN Headquarters in New York, only Russia blocked consensus on a final document. Despite Russia’s lone abstention, the fact that all other States Parties were prepared to accept the draft final document demonstrated the international community’s enduring commitment to the Treaty. Thanks to the hard work and earnest diplomacy conducted by the United States and so many others, this document contained many positive elements, which the United States will work collaboratively to advance throughout the next review cycle. These include:
- Support for advancing nuclear weapon risk reduction measures;
- Strengthening IAEA safeguards on nuclear material; and
- Advancing peaceful uses of nuclear energy, science, and technologies.
Despite Russia’s obstructionism, the Tenth Review Conference re-emphasized the NPT’s integrity and essential role as the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Over the course of the month, we demonstrated our willingness to engage constructively on contentious issues, ranging from nuclear weapons free zones and other regional issues to advancing nuclear disarmament. In his final remarks, Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Ambassador Adam Scheinman, emphasized the United States remains unflinching in its support for the NPT and will, “remain stubbornly, persistently at the table .”
In December, the Ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) concluded with the adoption of a final document hammered out on the last day. The BWC is one of the most important international security agreements dedicated to preventing the use and spread of WMD. It was the first agreement to ban an entire class of WMD, and for decades it has helped keep the world safe from the threat of biological and toxin weapons. This consensus document met key U.S. objectives, including:
- Denying the Russian Federation a platform to continue its disinformation campaign against the United States and Ukraine;
- Strengthening the BWC’s secretariat, called the Implementation Support Unit, by adding new staff and renewing the Unit’s mandate until the Tenth Review Conference in 2027; and
- Establishing a working group to further strengthen the effectiveness and implementation of the BWC. This working group will meet for two weeks each year beginning in March 2023 to consider measures that account for both advances in science and technology and changes in the nature of the threats of biological and toxin weapons.
The work program for the next five years represents a new chapter for the BWC and supports our goal of revitalizing this critically important Treaty. This change of direction, if successfully executed, could put the BWC on a positive trajectory that will align it with the realities of 21st century threats and advances in science and technology. In the face of steadfast Russian and Iranian resistance, many States Parties shared the U.S.’s desire to break the long-running stalemate in the BWC and take concrete action to strengthen the Convention.
Implementing Biden-Harris Administration Mandate on Energy Security and Climate Change
Since President Biden made clear at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate last year that developing safe and reliable nuclear power is essential to addressing the challenges to combat climate change, ISN has worked – in coordination with Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry– to support 15 countries through a new flagship program, the Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST). The FIRST initiative supports states in implementing the highest standards for nuclear security, safety, and nonproliferation as they consider and prepare for adopting emerging nuclear reactor technologies to meet clean energy needs.
ISN also advanced efforts to expand civil nuclear cooperation between the United States and its partners, including supporting Poland’s landmark announcement that it will use U.S. nuclear reactor technology for its first set of nuclear power plants. Additionally, negotiations for agreements for civil nuclear cooperation were kicked off with Ghana and the Philippines, while Nuclear Cooperation Memoranda of Understanding (NCMOUs) were signed with Armenia, Kenya, and the Philippines. Nuclear cooperation agreements set the legal foundation for licensing U.S. exports of nuclear material and equipment, while NCMOUs are diplomatic tools to strengthen bilateral relationships in nuclear energy and nonproliferation. Together with the FIRST initiative, these efforts help ensure that programs for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including clean nuclear power, are implemented under the highest standards of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation.
Expanding Efforts to Counter China’s Challenge to the United States
ISN has also significantly expanded our efforts to counter China’s aggressive approach to harnessing its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to challenge the United States. In 2022, we expanded programs to enforce export, technology transfer, financial controls, and foreign investment screening measures to prevent the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) theft or diversion of WMD-applicable technologies. These technologies have potential to be used in the PRC military and exploited to further their agenda. ISN has focused on cross-cutting priorities such as enforcement mechanisms that better combat unfair foreign trade practices, safeguard critical supply chains, and counter PRC’s exploitative economic activities. Most recently, we’ve worked closely with the Economic and Business Affairs and Cyber bureaus to implement the CHIPS Act and help secure long-term U.S. national security and economic competitiveness. We are also working to protect other sensitive and emerging technologies by strengthening partners’ due-diligence, investigative, and interdiction capabilities, and by developing new tools to strengthen cybersecurity and cybercrime enforcement, including in the financial and maritime sectors.
2023 and Beyond
Looking forward to 2023, we will continue the work we do every day with our partners to prevent proliferation, WMD terrorism, enforce UN sanctions, and improve energy security. Our efforts to work bilaterally, multilaterally, and in partnership with like-minded countries to prevent the proliferation of WMD, their delivery systems, as well as dual use technologies that may be misused will not be diminished. As long as proliferators seek to exploit these technologies, our efforts will continue.
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About the Author: Sophie Otto is a public affairs officer in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.