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10. Conventional arms control and military confidence building


I. Introduction

II. European arms control: the CFE regime

III. Consolidating military confidence in the OSCE area

IV. The Treaty on Open Skies

V. The global dimension

VI. Conclusions


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Renewed interest in and dialogue on conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs) continued in 2010. The European arms control dialogue progressed on two tracks: the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) regime and that of the Vienna Document on CSBMs, both of which were last adapted in 1999. This ‘reset’, embodied in revitalized efforts to update both regimes, also included numerous proposals regarding conventional arms control and confidence-building endeavours that will be part of the overall concept for future Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) work in this area and that will persist well beyond 2010.


Although the CFE Treaty remained in abeyance because of Russia’s disagreement with its equity and adequacy, the states parties explored options to resolve the deadlock. NATO’s June 2010 proposal to develop a new framework to strengthen conventional arms control and transparency in Europe paved the way for constructive dialogue, with Russia recognizing that its security interests are being taken seriously. The incremental method of tackling the Vienna CSBM Document appears workable, and CSBMs are regaining their value in military-security dialogue. The experience of recent years has forced the OSCE participating states to make a major effort to adapt this useful instrument of openness, transparency and reassurance to meet the existing and emerging risks and challenges. The second review conference of the Treaty on Open Skies reaffirmed its pertinence as a confidence-building instrument.


However, arms control in Europe is not autonomous, and much depends on the strategic interests of the main actors on the Euro-Atlantic scene. The anodyne outcome of the OSCE summit meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, slowed the momentum towards attaining ambitious goals in this field.


Globally, many states now share an interest in an arms trade treaty (ATT), although it is less apparent how to agree on the text of such a treaty. States have not been able to reach consensus on the scope and other parameters of such a treaty, including the kinds of arms to be covered; the standards to apply in making weapon import and export decisions; and the issues of how to share, monitor and verify information. The meeting of the ATT preparatory committee in July 2010 in New York made progress, but numerous outstanding issues remain to be solved in 2011 and 2012.



Dr Zdzislaw Lachowski (Poland) is Deputy Head of the Polish National Security Bureau.