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Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Wassenaar Members End Plenary; First Data Exchange Falls Short
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Sarah Walkling

DESPITE THEIR December 1996 deadline for enacting new export control guidelines for conventional arms and dual use goods and technologies, members of the so called Wassenaar Arrangement concluded their December 12 13 plenary meeting in Vienna with the regime far from fully operational. While the 33 participating countries agreed on a budget and program of work for the coming year, the impasse continued as to who would head the new Secretariat in Vienna. More important, however, the results of the regime's first data exchange suggest its emphasis on promoting transparency is not yet shared by all members.

Formally titled the Wassenaar Arrangement for Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual Use Goods and Technologies, the group seeks to avoid destabilizing transfers of weapons and sensitive technologies through the coordination of national export control policies. As the successor regime to the Cold War era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), the arrangement includes many of the countries once targeted by the former NATO member based organization. Unlike COCOM, however, Wassenaar members have no veto power over other members' weapons deliveries or technology transfers and the regime is not directed against a particular group of states. Rather, it targets regions or states whose behavior is a cause of concern to participants. The United States has identified Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea as "rogue" states that should be included in that category.

 

Cloudy Transparency

The regime's first voluntary exchange of data, which was initiated in September 1996, covered four categories of arms and dual use technology transfers to non members: actual weapons deliveries; license denials for "basic" dual use items; license approvals for "sensitive" dual use equipment; and license denials for "very sensitive" dual use items such as encryption and supercomputer technology.

Thirty Wassenaar members submitted data on their transfers of seven categories of conventional weapons (battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, attack helicopters, combat aircraft, warships, heavy artillery, and missiles and missile launchers) that correspond to the categories in the UN Conventional Arms Register. State Department officials, emphasizing the confidentiality of the new regime, declined to identify the non participating states. In the most recent reporting period for the UN register (covering calendar year 1995), all Wassenaar members submitted data on their weapons transfers. (See ACT, November/December 1996.) However, in the Wassenaar exchange, only half of all members submitted data on their dual use transfers to non members. Several countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia and Bulgaria, reportedly failed to pass the necessary national implementing legislation in time to participate in the exchange. (Russia and Ukraine passed the necessary legislation in October and December 1996, respectively.) Other countries are expected to have passed the necessary legislation before the next exchange, scheduled to begin March 31.

For 1997, the budget for Wassenaar Secretariat operations will total $1 million to $2 million, with contributions assessed on a scale similar to that used by the United Nations. Under this formula, the U.S. assessment is expected to cover nearly 25 percent of the total budget. In addition, members agreed to hold at least one plenary meeting in 1997, an expert group meeting February 24 25 and a working group meeting June 2. These groups will monitor implementation progress and discuss information exchange procedures and deadlines.

Without ongoing consultations or veto power for its members, however, it is unclear whether the Wassenaar Arrangement can effectively serve as a forum for resolving disputes over transfers of conventional weapons and dual use technology. During the December plenary, participants reportedly did not discuss several of the most controversial arms sales involving regime members, such as Russia's proposed sale of S 300 anti aircraft missiles to the Greek Cypriot government, a transfer which the United States and Turkey have described as "destabilizing." In their only public statement issued following the plenary, a 10 sentence press statement, Wassenaar members addressed only one conflict: Afghanistan. The statement declared that "as a matter of national policy," no Wassenaar member transfers arms or ammunition to the parties involved in the conflict.