14. Arms control in the new security environment
While bilateral and multilateral treaties cannot carry the full weight of managing international security problems, arms control continued to play an important role as one instrument of security policy in 2002. Public statements by major powers—including the USA—confirmed their belief that other approaches cannot substitute for certain features of multilateral arms control.
While a lack of political agreement over the priority to be given to different threats, risks and challenges is a barrier to further progress in many areas of arms control, there is a growing awareness of the need to take further action to ensure compliance with existing agreements and address identified cases of non-compliance. Recent developments suggest that the issue area in which political agreement can be reached among the widest circle of states is around the proposition that nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons should not spread to new states or to any non-state actor.
The recognized need to give higher priority to addressing treaty compliance and proliferation concerns has led to a wide range of initiatives of different types. While the essence of arms control remains constant—self-restraint either with regard to national military capacities or with regard to decisions, such as the denial of authorization to export, that could support military capacities in other countries—events in 2002 underlined that this objective is being sought through at least four distinct, complementary but non-hierarchical approaches.
First, many different activities are continuing to take place in the framework of multilateral and bilateral arms control treaties and arrangements. These treaties and arrangements—the scope of which include NBC and conventional weapons as well as many types of missiles—continue to provide a central element of the framework for overall efforts to control armaments and military capacities.
Second, certain country-specific approaches have been developed that combine different political, legal, economic and military instruments to achieve disarmament. The United Nations Security Council continued to be directly engaged in efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and prohibit ballistic missiles in Iraq. In Resolution 1441 the Security Council took a number of decisions unanimously and warned Iraq that it would face ‘serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations’. At the end of 2002 a number of countries, principally the USA and the UK, prepared for military action against Iraq to add credibility to the decisions contained in Resolution 1441.
Third, in June 2002, the leaders of the Group of Eight formed a Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction to provide material, technological and financial assistance to states (in the first instance the Russian Federation) that lack the means to implement shared disarmament, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism objectives.
Fourth, the states that participate in multilateral export control cooperation continued to develop common standards implemented through national laws and regulations. Some states that do not participate in such arrangements (such as China) made important changes to their national export control systems.
Taken together, these activities, in each of which the role of the USA has been prominent, can be characterized as order-building diplomacy carried out among groups with relevant membership. This approach, which has been described as ‘effective multilateralism’, best balances current needs and realities within the international system.
Dr Ian Anthony (United Kingdom) is SIPRI Research Coordinator and the Leader of the SIPRI Internet Database on European Export Controls Project. In 1992–98 he was Leader of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Project. His most recent publication for SIPRI is A Future Arms Control Agenda: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 118, 1999 (2001), for which he is co-editor (with Adam Daniel Rotfeld). He is also editor of the SIPRI volumes Russia and the Arms Trade (1998), Arms Export Regulations (1991) and SIPRI Research Report no. 7, The Future of Defence Industries in Central and Eastern Europe (1994), and author of The Naval Arms Trade (SIPRI, 1990) and The Arms Trade and Medium Powers: Case Studies of India and Pakistan 1947–90 (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992). He has written or co-authored chapters for the SIPRI Yearbook since 1988.