Legal definitions, negotiating processes, and gradual technological improvements rarely make headlines. Yet, these are the nuts and bolts that can make arms control agreements and their associated regimes succeed or fail.
Take the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). When the Senate rejected the treaty in 1999, one of the more common objections was that it could not prevent states from cheating and conducting very low-yield or clandestine nuclear tests. But as David Hafemeister argues in this month’s cover story, that argument has lost whatever technical credibility it may have had after recent improvements in verification technology. Applying long-standing arms control standards, Hafemeister concludes that the CTBT is effectively verifiable.
In another feature article, Jean du Preez calls for reforming the process that is used to keep the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime up-to-date. He says that the current format of regular treaty-related meetings, adopted in 2000, has hobbled countries’ ability to cobble together compromises at once-every-five-years treaty review conferences, setting back nonproliferation and disarmament efforts worldwide.
In contrast, Ambassador Dalius Čekuolis says that careful preparation and the right format helped lead to a successful conclusion at the recent meeting he chaired of states seeking to advance a 2001 effort to control small arms and light weapons. And he contends that this process could serve as a model for other such efforts.
This month’s news section includes Wade Boese’s in-depth article on how the Bush administration’s approach to nonproliferation sanctions has shifted over time. Jeff Abramson analyzes international small arms transfers based on recent reports to the United Nations. Finally, Peter Crail reports on the latest twists and turns regarding Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs.
Our “Looking Back” essay by ACA Board Chairman John Steinbruner discusses the history and value of U.S. declaratory policy as an element of deterrence. Steinbruner argues that, on the 30th anniversary of President Jimmy Carter’s negative security assurance policy, it is time for the United States to change its words and to rethink deterrence for a new era.