Merkley, Senators Introduce Bill to Prevent Nuclear Arms Race

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), today announced the introduction of the Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019, legislation that would pull the United States and Russia back from the brink of a 21st Century nuclear arms race. Merkley and Markey are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Warren and Gillibrand serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“There’s a reason that kids today don’t do duck-and-cover drills in schools and that nobody has bomb shelters in their backyards anymore. That reason is because of key agreements like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty,” said Merkley. “This era of stability is put at great risk by President Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the INF Treaty. This decision ignores all the lessons from the Cold War. There is no doubt that Russia is violating the INF Treaty, but the right path forward is to work to bring them back into compliance, not free them to produce more nuclear weapons. Blowing up the Treaty risks the proliferation of nuclear-capable systems by Russia, threatening Europe and jeopardizing decades of bipartisan efforts to reduce nuclear dangers with Russia.”

“A nuclear arms race would endanger the entire world and threaten every single person in our country, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that President Trump does not start one. President Trump’s imminent unilateral withdrawal from a bipartisan weapons treaty with Russia, without consulting Congress, would mean the Prevention of Arms Race Act is more important than ever,” said Gillibrand. “A reckless withdrawal would further damage our relationships with our allies, Russia would not be legally constrained from deploying larger numbers of their previously prohibited missiles, and the world would be much less safe. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to prevent a new arms race, and I will continue to do everything I can to keep all Americans safe.”

“Pulling out of the INF Treaty plays squarely into Russia’s hands while undermining America’s security and betraying our NATO allies,” Markey said. “The Trump administration needs to work more closely with our NATO allies to force Russia back into compliance. And as the chance of a confrontation between American and Chinese forces rises the Indo-Pacific, it makes little sense to add further ambiguity over whether U.S. missiles stationed around the region are nuclear-armed. This legislation will help ensure that we don’t match two major adversaries missile-for-missile, trigger a new nuclear arms race, and incur unacceptable amounts of risk in an already tenuous security environment.”

“If Donald Trump walks out of the INF Treaty, he will risk a new destabilizing and costly arms race and antagonize important allies,” said Wyden. “The administration should instead be working with European allies to pressure Russia back into compliance.”  

The Senators’ legislation comes in advance of the Trump Administration’s expected action this weekend to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)  treaty. The State Department set a February 2, 2019 deadline for Russia to return to compliance with the Treaty after a hasty and un-vetted declaration by President Trump in October that the United States intended to withdraw from the landmark treaty with Russia. The INF was originally signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. 

The United States first declared Russia to be in violation of the Treaty in 2014, and experts agree it is critical that the United States continue to work to bring Russia back into compliance and hold it accountable for its violation. A U.S. withdrawal of the INF Treaty will not eliminate Russia’s violating missile; instead it emboldens Russia to deploy greater quantities of nuclear-capable systems and without legal restriction. And withdrawal will not eliminate China’s expansive arsenal of intermediate-range missiles; rather, the collapse of the Treaty will dim future prospects of limiting or eliminating China’s inventory of these weapons.

The INF Treaty permanently led to the elimination of entire classes of U.S. and Russian nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles – 2,692 in total – supported by on-site inspections that allowed both sides to “trust but verify” compliance with the Treaty. The administration has not properly consultation with Congress – a co-equal branch of government – on its plans to pull out of INF. The move is also the latest example of the President ignoring the objections of U.S. NATO allies who have declared that the INF Treaty “has been crucial to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The Prevention of Arms Race Act of 2019 prohibits funding for the procurement, flight-testing, or deployment of a  U.S. ground-launched or ballistic missile – with a range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers – until the Trump Administration provides a report that meets seven specific conditions. That report would be required to: 


1)      Identify a U.S. ally formally willing to host such a system, and in the case of a European country, have it be the outcome of a NATO-wide decision;

2)      Detail recent diplomatic efforts to bring Russia back into compliance with the Treaty;

3)      Assess the risk to U.S. national security and that of our allies stemming from Russia being able to deploy greater numbers of intermediate range missiles;

4)     Identify what programs the United States would need to pursue to offset additional Russian capabilities and at what cost;

5)     Identify what mission requirements with respect to the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China will be met by INF-type systems;

6)      Identify the degree to which INF-compliant capabilities, such as sea and air-launched cruise missiles, can meet those same mission requirements; and

7)      Detail the costs to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the ability to maintain consensus within the NATO Alliance should the INF Treaty collapse. 


Click here for the full text of the bill.