Under the Trump administration, the U.S. withdrew from four major arms control deals and did not move to ratify a fifth. While the Biden administration has moved toward re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, it has yet to put forth concrete policy proposals on re-entering other deals that the U.S. pulled out of under Trump. Biden agreed to extend the New START treaty with Russia in January 2021. The status of major arms control deals is listed below:
2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
- Overview: The JCPOA was signed in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The deal outlines restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program development as well as guidelines for inspections, with sanctions relief dependent on Iranian compliance.
- Status: Trump withdrew from JCPOA in 2018. Biden has made re-entering the deal a top priority for his arms control agenda, but the administration faces significant obstacles to rejoining the treaty. As of July 2021, negotiations in Vienna are ongoing as indirect talks among the U.S. and seven other participants—Britain, China, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, and Russia—enter their sixth round.
2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START)
- Overview: The New START treaty places limits on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and nuclear warheads. It also establishes onsite inspections and biannual data exchanges between the two nations.
- Status: Under the Trump administration, the New START treaty was the remaining major arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia that was kept in place. The Trump administration sent mixed signals and indicated at different times that it both intended to extend the treaty and withdraw. As president, extending the New START treaty was one of Biden’s first moves on arms control in January 2021.
1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)
- Overview: The INF is a bilaterally ratified treaty between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., which required the elimination of all missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,500 miles. The INF treaty is the first nuclear arms control agreement to actually reduce nuclear arms rather than establish ceilings. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the treaty was expanded to include the twelve former-Soviet republics.
- Status: Trump withdrew from the treaty in 2019, citing multiple Russian violations, including deploying banned missile systems. Biden has not moved to rejoin the INF, due in part to China’s medium-range missile development.
1992 The Treaty on Open Skies
- Overview: The Open Skies Treaty establishes the freedom of navigation for short-notice, unarmed, observation flights by signatories over the territories of other signatories. Signed by all NATO allies and Russia, it creates the obligation to accept observation flights from other signatories, meant to create transparency around potential weapons development.
- Status: Trump withdrew from the treaty at the end of his presidency after losing re-election in November 2020. Biden condemned the move at the time but appears unlikely to rejoin the treaty as president.
Other Major Arms Control Deals to Address
1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
- Overview: The CTBT prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” anywhere in the world. The treaty has been ratified by 170 countries, including Russia. The U.S. was one of the original signatories of the treaty in 1996 but has yet to ratify it.
- Status: As vice president during the Obama administration, Biden urged the U.S. to formally ratify the treaty but was opposed by a GOP-led Congress. Under Trump, the issue of ratifying the treaty was left unaddressed. While Biden has previously pushed for ratification, he has yet to re-address the issue.
2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
- Overview: Ratified by sixty-one countries, including five of the top ten arms exporters (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK), the ATT regulates international arms sales between states. It is intended to prevent small arms and light weapons from being used to perpetrate human rights abuses.
- Status: Obama signed the treaty in 2013, but the Senate never voted to approve it, so the U.S. never fully ratified the treaty. Trump removed the U.S.’s signature from the treaty in 2019. Biden has not taken a stance on re-signing the treaty, but even if he were to do so, it would be unlikely that Congress would support its ratification.