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June 2, 2022
Russia Undecided on Arms Trade Treaty
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Daryl G. Kimball

Russia has not decided whether to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a Russian official said last month, apparently contradicting an earlier report by the state-run Voice of Russia broadcasting service.

In a May 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the department for nonproliferation and arms control at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “as of now, there is no decision on joining the ATT or not.”

The inquiry to Ulyanov was prompted by a May 20 Voice of Russia report saying Moscow had decided not to join the ATT.

“We see both positive and negative aspects, all of which will be taken into account,” Ulyanov said in the e-mail. One positive feature is the requirement for states to create or improve their national export control systems, he said. “But the list of the treaty’s drawbacks is also pretty long,” said Ulyanov, who was Russia’s chief negotiator during the multilateral talks that produced the ATT last year.

Russia has been criticized by many Western governments for continuing to supply the Bashar al-Assad regime, which has attacked civilian population centers throughout the three-year-old civil conflict in Syria. The ATT prohibits arms transfers if the supplier state “has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes.”

A year after the ATT was opened for signature, 118 states have signed it, and 32 have ratified it. When 50 states ratify the pact, it will enter into force.

Russia is one of several major arms supplier states that have not signed the treaty. Moscow is the world’s second-largest arms supplier, accounting for 27 percent of all arms exports from 2009 to 2013, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The United States, the largest arms supplier, signed the treaty in September, but U.S. officials have indicated they do not plan to send it to the Senate for approval in the near future.