Arms Control and Disarmament - Conventional and other arms control agreements

In addition to the major agreements dealing with nuclear weapons, several other arms control activities were undertaken in the post-1945 era, including a multilateral treaty limiting the conventional forces in Europe, agreements on chemical and biological weapons, pacts creating nuclear-weapons-free zones, and protocols aimed at preventing accidental war.

Limiting Conventional Forces Immediately after World War II, the victors dismantled Germany's military forces and divided the nation. With the onset of the Cold War, however, the Western allies authorized controlled rearmament of (West) Germany and integration into NATO. In Japan the U.S. authorities endorsed, perhaps initiated, Article 9 in the 1946 constitution, which renounced war as an instrument of national policy and prohibited offensive military forces. Later, during and after the Korean War, the United States urged the development of Japanese "self-defense forces."

Negotiations seeking to limit conventional military forces in Europe began in the early 1970s and went on for nearly twenty years. The imbalance between the much greater Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces and U.S. and NATO forces meant that Moscow was reluctant to offer concessions. Under these circumstances, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) measure adopted in the Helsinki Final Act of 1975—which called for regulating major military exercises—was more easily achieved than arms limitations. Several critics belittled the CSCE or "Stockholm" conventional arms control accord; yet the reduced size of these exercises, force concentrations, and armaments involved—along with the advance notice—realistically reduced concerns that "maneuvers" might become a surprise attack.

Negotiations in 1989–1990 finally resulted in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Agreement. Several factors contributed to their success: France joined the talks; Gorbachev unilaterally withdrew troops and equipment from forward areas; the Warsaw Pact disintegrated; and a reunited Germany agreed to troop limitations. The 11 November 1990 agreement limited five categories of conventional armed forces stationed in Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains. These included three categories of ground equipment (tanks, artillery, and armored combat vehicles), aircraft, and helicopters. The process included a full of sharing conventional arms information among all parties and a joint consultative group to iron out differences. By 1998 more than 3,000 on-site inspections had been carried out, and the dismantling of 58,000 units of weapons and equipment had been verified.

Negotiations soon began to establish troop limits and to resolve or clarify other issues. A CFE 1A treaty signed on 10 July 1992 at Helsinki, Finland, spelled out national personnel limits, including restricting the United States to 250,000 personnel in Europe. Another parallel agreement was the "Open Skies" Accord, signed at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe ministerial meeting in Helsinki on 24 March 1992. In July 1955, President Eisenhower had proposed aerial reconnaissance to eliminate "the possibility of great surprise attack, thus lessening danger and relaxing tensions," and to "make more easily attainable a comprehensive and effective system of inspection and disarmament." The Soviets rejected the idea as an espionage plot. After it had lain dormant for three decades, President George H. W. Bush gave the Open Skies concept new life in 1989 because he needed a new arms control proposal; because aircraft, cheap and more flexible, complemented reconnaissance satellites; and because NATO could directly observe Soviet-bloc nations without relying on U.S. satellites.

Banning Land Mines The "humanitarian" approach won out in the efforts to negotiate a ban on the use of land mines—which in 1997 were estimated to kill or maim 2,000 people each month, some 80 percent of whom were civilians. The ban's origins may be traced back to the little-known 1981 "inhumane weapons" convention that sought to prohibit the use of "mines, booby-traps and other devices." From the convention's 1995–1996 Review Conference emerged support from worldwide nongovernmental organizations.

The United States rejected the original Inhumane Weapons Pact because the Defense Department was reluctant to give up its stockpile of high-technology mines. According to Pentagon estimates, the use of these "smart mines" (with self-destruction or self-deactivation mechanisms) could reduce American casualties on the Korean Peninsula by one-third by limiting the mobility of enemy troops and provide an early warning of attack. Military officials argued that U.S. policy ought to focus on eliminating "dumb" mines and postpone negotiations on other antipersonnel mines.

In October 1996 the Canadian government launched an initiative (the Ottawa Process) aimed at banning antipersonnel mines. Washington announced on 17 January 1997 that it would permanently ban the export and transfer of land mines and would cap its own inventory at current levels. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy led the American campaign to ban land mines, against opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and found a growing number of military officers, both retired generals and those holding commands, questioning the utility of battlefield antipersonnel mines. In June, fifty-six senators signed a resolution calling for a ban on the use of land mines by U.S. forces after 2000.

At the Oslo conference in the fall of 1997, the Clinton administration introduced "improvements" in the draft text in line with Pentagon wishes; however, this endeavor drew the unanimous response "no exceptions, no reservations and no loopholes." On 17 September 1997 the administration decided not to sign the final text; later, however, it decided to unilaterally cease using land mines outside of South Korea by 2003 and to sign the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention by 2006 if alternative mines and mixed antitank systems could be developed. Moreover, the Clinton administration promised to raise $1 billion to carry out a U.S.-led "Demining 2010 Initiative" to remove all land mines from more than sixty-four countries by the year 2010. Between 1993 and 1997, the United States spent $153 million and planned to spend $68 million in 1998 to assist in mine removal in seventeen countries.

Banning Chemical and Biological Weapons Although the United States had signed the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibited the use of "asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases," the Army Chemical Warfare Service and the chemical industry prevented its ratification. Ignoring his Chemical Warfare Service's recommendations, President Franklin Roosevelt in June 1943 unilaterally announced a "no-first-use" policy: "I state categorically that we shall under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies."

During the first two decades of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union accumulated large stocks of chemical weapons and integrated them into their military planning. When a resolution to augment the 1925 Geneva Protocol was introduced in the UN General Assembly in 1966, the United States immediately objected to the addition of herbicides and riot-control agents. The Senate ratified the Geneva Protocol in January 1975—fifty years after signing—with reservations: it did not apply to riot-control agents or herbicides (widely used by the United States in Vietnam), and the United States reserved the right to retaliate in kind should a foe violate the protocol.

On 25 November 1969, President Nixon reaffirmed the chemical warfare "no-first-use" policy. At the same time, he unilaterally renounced U.S. use of bacteriological or biological weapons, closed all facilities producing these offensive weapons, and ordered existing stockpiles of biological weapons and agents destroyed. At Geneva the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament had been preparing a convention that would ban production, acquisition, or stockpiling of biological weapons and would require destruction of stocks. Because of the complexities involved, there were no formal verification procedures. On 10 April 1972 the Biological Convention was signed; however, U.S. ratification was delayed until the Geneva Protocol was approved in 1975.

In 1989 a Soviet defector revealed that Moscow had possessed an extensive biological weapons program in violation of its treaty obligations. The 1979 accidental release of anthrax spores at Sverdlovsk, apparently leading to many deaths, had prompted U.S. officials to ask privately for an explanation. The Soviets were less than candid until President Yeltsin acknowledged in April 1992 that an illicit program had existed but had been terminated. While Iraq's biological weapons efforts were known, their surprising size and scope became known only in 1995 with Saddam Hussein's son-in-law's defection.

The threat of Iraq's biological arsenal during the Gulf War prompted the 1991 Biological Weapons Review Convention to search for a means of verification. The United States took the position that the convention was not verifiable, but other nations were not satisfied. The conference created the Group of Verification Experts, which began a protracted scientific and technical examination of potential measures, and was reviewing the verification techniques employed by the chemical weapons convention at the end of the twentieth century.

Following inconclusive bilateral negotiations from 1977 to 1980 for a chemical weapons convention, the United States and Soviet Union reluctantly agreed to let the UN Conference on Disarmament wrestle with the problems. As finally signed, on 13 January 1993, the Convention on Chemical Weapons eliminated an entire class of weapons and established the most elaborate verification regime in history. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would collect declarations as to nations' stockpiles and oversee their destruction. In April 1997 the Senate finally granted its approval.

Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones There is no authoritative definition of nuclear-weapons-free zones, but there are certain accepted elements implicit in the term. These include no manufacture or production of nuclear weapons within the zone, no importation of nuclear weapons by nations within the zone, no stationing or storing of nuclear weapons within the borders of nations within the zone, and preferably a pledge by nuclear weapons states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear nations within the zone. Although early proposals were caught up in the Cold War rivalry, the United States agreed to three multilateral agreements that prohibited nuclear weapons in specific, nonpopulated areas—Antarctica, outer space, and the seabed.

The Antarctic agreement (1959) has been acknowledged as the forerunner of nuclear-weapons-free zone treaties because of its demilitarizing provisions. An innovative verification system was established whereby the treaty parties might conduct aerial inspections and, at all times, have complete access to all areas and installations. Ten years of UN-sponsored, multilateral disarmament sessions resulted in the Outer Space Treaty (1967), in which the parties agree "not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" or establish "military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies." The nuclear test ban accords and the ABM treaty (1972) also have constraints on testing or deploying various weapons in outer space, and the SALT and START treaties prohibit interference with the monitoring of space vehicles. The objective of the Seabed Treaty (1971) is to prevent the placing of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor beyond national territorial waters.

The Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967) pledged its Latin American signatories to keep their territories free of nuclear weapons; not to test, develop, or import such weapons; to prevent the establishment of foreign-controlled nuclear weapon bases in the region; and to negotiate International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. The United States ratified the protocols asking nations having territorial interests in the region "to apply the status of denuclearization in respect to warlike purposes" to these territories, and "not to use or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against" treaty signatories. Signatories of the Treaty of Rarotonga (1985), including Australia and New Zealand, along with other nearby island states, modeled their pact after the Tlatelolco Treaty. The motivation for creating this nuclear-weapons-free zone was the desire to pressure France to stop underground nuclear tests on Mururoa Atoll in the Tuamoto Archipelago and to prevent disposal of radioactive waste in the region. Many in Washington feared that Rarotonga might encourage additional nuclear-weapons-free zones in the South Pacific that would restrict the navy's freedom of movement; consequently, the United States signed but, as of 2001, had not ratified the agreement. The Reagan administration's talk of winnable nuclear wars aroused intense opposition in New Zealand and Australia. In February 1985, New Zealand's government banned a U.S. destroyer from its ports, because the United States refused to say whether or not it carried nuclear weapons. The episode caused a serious rift between New Zealand and Washington for nearly two decades.

In the mid-1990s, two post–Cold War nuclear-weapons-free zones emerged—the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok, 1995) and African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Treaty of Pelindaba, 1996). Protocol I to both treaties states that the nuclear weapons states, including the United States, are "not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons" within these zones or against any treaty parties. The United States has argued that, regarding the innocent passage of its warships and aircraft, the Bangkok Treaty is "too restrictive" and has insisted on modifications before signing. The Treaty of Pelindaba apparently met with Washington's criteria and, although the United States signed it, as of 2001 ratification was still pending.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


Arms Control and Disarmament forum