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Are Cold War Treaties Beginning To Crumble?

Are Cold War Treaties Beginning To Crumble?

Authored by RFE/RL Staff via OilPrice.com,

The CTBT, signed in 1996, aimed to reduce the threat…

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Are Cold War Treaties Beginning To Crumble?

Authored by RFE/RL Staff via OilPrice.com,

  • The CTBT, signed in 1996, aimed to reduce the threat of nuclear war and the spread of radioactive material.

  • Despite the US not ratifying it, most signatories, including Russia and the US, have adhered to its terms.

  • Tensions and increased weapon development hint at Russia's potential decision to withdraw, further eroding international arms control frameworks.

The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Treaty on Open Skies. New START.

For years, the pillars of international arms control have been crumbling: agreements signed by Washington, Moscow, and others during and after the Cold War aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear war, costly arms races, or overall military tensions.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty may be the next to go.

Signed in 1996, the treaty was a major step to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons technology and keeping a lid on the arsenals of the world's biggest nuclear powers. Along with earlier treaties, the agreement, known as the CTBT, also aimed to reduce the spread of radioactive material that was blasted into the atmosphere and the oceans during the frenzied days of the Cold War.

Here's the problem: The treaty never went into effect because a number of countries, including the United States, never ratified it.

Still, most signatories -- including Russia and the United States, whose arsenals are by far the biggest in the world -- have abided by the ban.

Now, however, Russia is making noises about backing out and "de-ratifying" the treaty.

Here's what you need to know about the CTBT and its potential unraveling:

How'd It Come About?

The United States and the Soviet Union, as well as Britain, conducted hundreds of nuclear tests between 1945, when the world's first atomic bomb was detonated in the U.S. state of New Mexico and 1961, when Soviet officials detonated the world's most powerful weapon, the Tsar Bomba. France joined the nuclear testing club in 1960; China, in 1964.

The fallout, literal and figurative, from the testing led to a partial ban on atmospheric, oceanic, and space tests in 1963; underground tests continued to be allowed.

In 1974, India tested its first nuclear device, further expanding the nuclear club. A 1980 test by China became the last atmospheric test by any country anywhere.

Moscow's final test -- underground -- occurred in October 1990 on the remote Arctic archipelago called Novaya Zemlya. Britain, the United States, France, and China all conducted their final tests in the years that followed, prior to 1996, mainly underground.

What's It Do?

The CTBT basically bans all tests that result in a fission chain reaction, essentially a nuclear explosion.

Signed in 1996, the treaty was sent out to 187 signatory countries for ratification, but it has never come into effect because of a group of holdout countries.

Russia signed and ratified the treaty in 2000. The United States signed, but the U.S. Senate refused to ratify, citing concerns about verifying other countries' compliance with the ban. Despite nonratification, the United States has complied with the moratorium. China signed but didn't ratify.

Neither India, nor Pakistan, nor North Korea -- all of which have conducted open nuclear tests since 1996 -- is a member.

The treaty does allow for states to conduct subcritical, or zero-yield tests. Those involve explosives and nuclear materials but do not result in a fission reaction, the reaction that gives atomic weapons their terrible power. Both the United States and Russia are known to have conducted such tests.

Despite not ratifying the treaty, the United States does provide $33 million annually in funding for a system set up to monitor possible nuclear tests, as well as the Vienna-based organization charged with overseeing it.

What's The Problem Now?

As relations between Washington and Moscow have worsened, major treaties between them have also frayed or collapsed entirely.

Washington unilaterally pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty in 2002, angering Moscow. Washington for years accused Moscow of trying to cheat on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty until it effectively collapsed in 2019. In 2021, Russia withdrew from the Treaty on Open Skies, which allows countries to conduct surveillance flights over one another's territories in order to observe weapons and military sites.

Both countries have adhered to New START, which capped the number of warheads and "delivery vehicles" each could possess.

New START's extension, by both Russia and the United States in early 2021, was a lone bright spot in the continuing erosion of arms control.

But the agreement expires in 2026 and cannot be extended. Unless a successor treaty can be agreed upon and ratified, there will be no limits on the countries' arsenals after that year. Tensions over Ukraine have kept the two sides from even sending inspectors to one another's countries, as stipulated for in New START.

Both countries have also moved to modernize and upgrade their arsenals. But in a sign of deepening distrust, the U.S. State Department suggested in a 2022 report that Russia had not adhered to the standard of "zero-yield" testing.

So Russia Wants To Pull Out Then?

For more than a decade, the Kremlin has increased spending not only on conventional weapons and force strength but also on modernizing and expanding its strategic arsenal.

In 2018, Putin boasted that Russia was developing new weapons like an unmanned, nuclear-capable, underwater torpedo, and a hypersonic "glide" missile. He also bragged of the development of a nuclear-powered cruise missile -- the Burevestnik, which has had major problems.

In recent years, researchers have been monitoring a surge of activity on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago: satellite imagery showing an uptick of construction at one or possibly two settlements that researchers had identified as sites for a possible test of a nuclear device or the trouble-plagued Burevestnik.

A top Russian nuclear researcher called for Russia to resume testing, and on October 5 Putin announced a successful test of the Burevestnik, though he provided no details.

Putin also opened to the door to Russia resuming nuclear testing, saying it could "de-ratify" the CTBT. A week later, on October 12, the speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, introduced legislation to withdraw ratification.

The prospect of Russia withdrawing prompted alarm bells, including from the CTBTO, the Vienna-based organization charged with monitoring compliance.

What Happens Next?

Even if "de-ratification" ends up happening, as is likely in the Kremlin-controlled parliament, that does not necessarily mean Russia will start blowing up uranium or plutonium again, on Novaya Zemlya or otherwise.

"I think that withdrawal of ratification is a strictly political step -- leveling status with the U.S.," said Nikolai Sokov, a former Russian Foreign Ministry official and arms control expert.

"I think the main motive is the perception that 'Russia tried too hard in the past and made too many concessions' and now 'We're not interested in arms control more than other countries.'"

Leonid Slutsky, head of the Duma's foreign affairs committee, emphasized that Russia would not be withdrawing its signature under the treaty or "withdrawing from the voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing."

"We are withdrawing the ratification, thus restoring legislative parity with the U.S. Congress," he told the newspaper Kommersant.

"It was especially important for [the CTBTO] to hear that revoking ratification does not mean that Russia intends to resume nuclear tests and implies that Russia will continue to fully participate in the work being done for the Treaty's entry into force," Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia's ambassador in Vienna, told the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Still, it's not a good sign, experts say -- all the more so, given the demise of other treaties.

Russia or any major nuclear power backing out of the CTBT "would be a huge blow to the [global nonproliferation] regime and would undoubtedly lead to a cascade of nuke testing by other states," Lynn Rusten, a former U.S. arms control negotiator, told RFE/RL.

There could also be other nonproliferation or arms control treaties that are at risk, since, according to Sokov, the Kremlin has initiated a review of all similar agreements.

One strong candidate for "de-ratification" or a downgrading of Russia's involvement, he said, is the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, which obligates members to destroy their stocks of chemical weapons.

Russia's compliance with that treaty has been in question since the near-fatal poisonings of former Russian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal in England in 2018 and opposition activist Aleksei Navalny in Siberia in 2020.

In both cases, Western scientists identified a powerful Soviet-era nerve agent and suggested that Russia had maintained a secret, undeclared chemical weapons program.

Tyler Durden Mon, 10/16/2023 - 02:00

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

More Travel:

With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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