The independent resource on global security

14. Nuclear arms control




1995 was a year of progress in the field of nuclear arms
control, although one marked by indications that the political momentum
towards further arms reductions and technological limitations was waning.
In the light of the 'unfinished business' remaining on the arms control
agenda, 1996 will be a watershed year in which the nuclear weapon states,
which still possess over 20 000 nuclear weapons, move either decisively
to advance that agenda or noticeably away from it.

The UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) made considerable
progress towards concluding negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test
ban treaty (CTBT) and achieved a mandate to negotiate a convention banning
the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives. However, despite
consensus at the CD that the CTBT should be completed in 1996, there were
signs that it might not be. China's positions in particular will have to
be adjusted if this deadline is to be met, and several other issues remain
to be resolved. Furthermore, the CD never formed a committee to negotiate
the fissile material convention.

Implementation of the 1991 START I Treaty in reductions
in strategic nuclear delivery vehicles proceeded ahead of schedule in the
five states parties. However, the prospects for Russian ratification of
the 1993 START II Treaty looked increasingly gloomy in the light of a number
of technical and financial objections to the treaty raised in the parliament
and the general souring of US-Russian relations.

International efforts to reduce the potential nuclear weapon-related
dangers attending the breakup of the USSR intensified in 1995. There was
growing bilateral cooperation between the USA and Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia
and Ukraine, with the US-funded Cooperative Threat Reduction Programme delivering
large-scale assistance aimed primarily at strengthening central control
over former Soviet nuclear warheads, improving their physical security and
safety, and accelerating the dismantlement of their launch vehicles and
associated infrastructure.

There was growing controversy over the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile (ABM) Treaty and moves in the US Congress to commit the USA to develop
and deploy a national missile defence system. In addition, negotiations
between Russia and the USA to clarify the scope of the treaty remained at
an impasse; the USA proceeded with the testing of a new advanced-capability
theatre missile defence interceptor despite the lack of agreement with Russia
over the permissibility of such tests under the terms of the ABM Treaty.
China, France and the UK indicated that deployment of new missile defence
systems could compel them to take compensatory measures that might require
nuclear weapon testing.

Despite the ominous portents, there is good reason to believe
that the CTB treaty will be opened for signature in 1996 and that Russia
and the USA will find a modus vivendi for the ABM Treaty, START II and even
further reductions. However, despite a renewed push for the global elimination
of nuclear weapons in the near term by the non-nuclear weapon states in
1995, the process of reducing them to zero, if it continues, will do so
only gradually, taking decades rather than years.


Appendix 14A. Nuclear explosions, 1945–95

Appendix 14A provides data
on nuclear explosions from 1945 to 1995