The independent resource on global security

10. Conventional arms control


I. Introduction

II. European arms control

III. Building confidence and security in the OSCE area

IV. Global efforts to counter inhumane weapons

V. Conclusions


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The year 2007 witnessed the biggest challenge yet to the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) when Russia ‘suspended’ its participation in the regime. The brinkmanship over the treaty is a reflection of the wider spectrum of political and military issues that divide the participants in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) rather than a conflict in its own right. Russia’s separation of its legal arms control obligations and its 1999 Istanbul political commitments put it at loggerheads with other CFE parties which insist on treating the CFE process as a whole. The Western states have belatedly acknowledged the need to pay more serious attention to Russia’s CFE-related concerns. However, given Russia’s current behaviour and its non-observance of the treaty’s flank restrictions, a quick reconciliation does not seem likely. In addition, both the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and states that are poised to join the agreed adapted CFE regime will be unwilling to accede to a treaty that is to be substantially changed to accommodate the demands of one party, at the apparent expense of others’ sense of security.

Paradoxically, despite—or because of—the CFE crisis, arms control has moved up the European security agenda. The weakening of the CFE arms control regime has led to some disquieting reactions in the South Caucasus, while in Moldova the deadlock over the removal of Russian personnel and equipment persisted. In contrast, implementation of the 2005 Georgia–Russia agreement on the closure of Russian military bases and facilities in Georgia was all but completed, while the subregional arms control regime in the Balkans continued to operate smoothly.

With ‘hard’ arms control deadlocked, a ‘soft’ arms control regime of confidence- and security-building measures has been suggested as a substitute. However, with confidence being undermined in one place, it is difficult to restore and develop it in another. Nevertheless, the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security retains its relevance, and other confidence-building steps among OSCE participants continue to focus on the multiple dangers created by surplus stockpiles of small arms, ammunition and toxic rocket fuel.

The number of states adhering to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mines Convention rose to 156, taking it further towards universalization. More and more countries are participating in the ‘Oslo process’ to ban the use of cluster munitions.


Dr Zdzislaw Lachowski (Poland) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Euro-Atlantic, Regional and Global Security Project.