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9. Arms control after the attacks of 11 September 2001



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Events in
2001 led both practitioners and observers to question the usefulness
of arms control as an instrument for managing security problems.
This was prompted by problems in implementing existing arms control
agreements as well as an identified lack of momentum in discussions
about new agreements. Two key events brought these problems into
clearer focus: the change in the US administration and the 11
September terrorist attacks in the USA.

The new administration
subjected a range of arms control processes to an unaccustomed
level of critical scrutiny. Although there were discontinuities
in arms control policy during the first year of the Bush Administration,
the approach also reflected positions that had been evolving
in Washington over several years. Two questions are at the root
of US concerns about the role of arms control: the first is how
to respond when parties violate an agreement to which they are
a party, and the second is whether arms control processes and
agreements can modify the behaviour of key states.

The policies
adopted by the USA stimulated wider discussion of how arms control
can contribute to international security. The discussions took
on an added dimension after the terrorist attacks against the
USA. These attacks reinforced the view in the USA that there
is a close correlation between the states that sponsor and carry
out terrorist acts and those that actively seek to acquire nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons through clandestine programmes;
these same states are seeking to acquire ballistic missiles and
other means that could be used to deliver one or more of these
types of weapons.

While developments
in 2001 have been seen as evidence of a loss of confidence by
key actors—in particular the USA—in the capacity of
arms control to manage security problems, the evidence suggests
that they reflect an adaptation of arms control, which is in
essence a framework in which structured dialogue can be organized
around armaments policy. As part of this process of adaptation
there may be a loss of coherence in the position of particular
states. A state may agree measures in the framework of one regional
process based on principles that would not be acceptable if applied
in a different location or on a global basis. This may be a transitory
phenomenon as new norms and principles develop in a changing
security environment.

In 2001 this
friction was felt in the discussion of the ABM Treaty, of a protocol
to verify the BTWC and of a general rule to prohibit military
assistance to non-state actors. Each of these discussions dealt
with an important but contested underlying issue of principle.
In helping to frame the issues and by providing a context for
structured discussion, arms control was fulfilling one of its
most important functions.


Ian Anthony
(United Kingdom) is 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
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
(SIPRI, 1990) and The Arms Trade and Medium Powers:
Case Studies of India and Pakistan
1947–90 (1991). He
has written or co-authored chapters for the SIPRI Yearbook
since 1988.