Arms Control and Disarmament - Arms control and compliance

"Most public attention in the area of arms control and disarmament has focused on the process of agreement negotiation. The news media emphasize the meetings of official delegations, the proposals and counterproposals, the compromises each side makes, and the debates over ratification that occur once an agreement has been reached. The negotiating process draws so much attention because it is dramatic, and because the personalities of national leaders and their prominent representatives are involved. In a negotiation, a clear objective is identified, and dramatic tension surrounds the question of whether the objective will be reached and what the terms of the deal will be.

"But the negotiating phase of an arms control agreement is only a prelude. The purpose of arms control pacts is to change or constrain the behavior of the parties in the realm of military security. While the terms of an agreement are important, the real substance of arms control lies in whether or not the parties are successful in accomplishing the objectives set out by the agreement; that is, whether they uphold the agreement over time. Arms control compliance is the actual implementation of the agreements that are concluded with such public fascination and dramatic flair. Compliance does not attract as much public attention as the process of negotiation, but it is arguably the most substantial and significant aspect of the arms control process.

"Arms control compliance has been surrounded by a considerable amount of controversy. Questions about compliance have often stirred states' deepest fears and insecurities about the intentions and military behavior of their adversaries, especially when tensions have been high and when international conflict or war has been imminent. Leaders are extremely uncomfortable with adherence to an arms control agreement when it is suspected that an adversary is gaining unfair advantage by violating the agreement.

"Charges of 'cheating' on arms control agreements have frequently been made, sometime on the basis of dubious evidence or arguments. The issue of arms control compliance was particularly politically charged in the 1930s and again in the l980s. In an atmosphere of high political tension, the distinction can be lost between legitimate obligations that are sanctioned by international agreements, and expectations, promises, or verbal statements."

—From Gloria C. Duffy, "Arms Control Treaty Compliance," Encyclopedia of Arms Control and Disarmament, vol. 1, New York, 1993—

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