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"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Conventional Arms Issues

Proposed Major U.S. Arms Export Agreements, January 2017—December 2017

February 2018

The value of proposed U.S. major conventional arms sales agreements through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program totaled just more than $63 billion in 2017—nearly identical to the amount in 2016. In May, new U.S. president Donald Trump touted potential major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which accounted for the largest portion of the 2017 FMS notifications and also raised the most controversy. Traditional “northern” allies Canada, Poland, and Romania were the only other countries requesting $5 billion or more in sales. In total, notifications were made involving 28 different countries plus NATO in 2017.

The United States conducts government-to-government arms transfers through the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Not all notified sales result in final transactions. Under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, Congress must be notified of proposed sales of “major defense equipment”—as defined on the U.S. Munitions List—that equals or exceeds $14 million; defense articles and services that are not defined as “major defense equipment” that total $50 million or more; and construction or design services amounting to or surpassing $200 million.[1] However, if the proposed sale involves NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, or New Zealand, the notification thresholds are $25 million for major defense equipment, $100 million for other defense articles and services, and $300 million for construction or design services.[2] Once notified, Congress has 30 calendar days (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) to block a sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, although it has never stopped a sale once formally notified.

On May 20, during his first overseas visit as president, Trump announced $110 billion in prospective arms sales to Saudi Arabia, leaving many specific details to be worked out later. In October, the single largest portion was notified to Congress, the potential sale of 7 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) radars and related missiles and other equipment valued at $15 billion. This followed a controversial roughly $510 million direct commercial sale of precision-guided munitions and related services that 47 Senators unsuccessfully voted to block in June. President Obama had suspended such munition sales in late 2016 due to concerns regarding civilian deaths caused by Saudi actions in Yemen, where a humanitarian crisis has developed as Saudi-led forces battled with Houthi forces who moved into the Yemeni capital Sana’a in 2014. 

Other missile defense systems, aside from THAAD, accounted for high value potential arms agreements in 2017. Roughly $10.5 billion of the $11.2 billion of arms offered to Poland consisted of radars, missiles, other components and training for the first phase of a Patriot 3+ system. Romania requested 7 radar sets, fire units, and related missiles for a Patriot 3+ system ($3.9 billion of roughly $5 billion request). Instead of missile defense, much of Canada’s request consisted of 18 F/A 18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft ($5.2 billion).

Below is a chart of the top four countries that sought the highest values in U.S. arms exports via the FMS program in 2017, along with some of their specific requests. 

Country

Total Value

Weapons/Services

Saudi Arabia

$17.19 billion

  • AN/TPY-2 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) radars

  • 44 THAAD launchers

  • 360 THAAD missiles

  • 10 74K Persistent Threat Detection System aerostats

  • Navy and Air Force training

Poland

$11.2 billion

  • Phase one of a two phase Patriot 3+ missile defense system, including 4 AN/MPQ-65 radar sets, launching stations, and 208 PAC-3 missiles (missile segment enhancement – MSE)

  • 25 guided multiple launch rocket systems rockets/warheads (GMLRS) and 1,642 guidance and control assemblies for GMLRS

  • 150 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs)

  • F-16 support

Canada

$5.57 billion

  • 10 F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft

  • 8 F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft

  • 32 AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to Air Missiles (AMRAAMs)

  • Sustainment support for C-17 transport aircraft

Romania

$5.15 billion

  • 7 Patriot 3+ modernized units including 7 AN/MPQ-65 radar sets, and 56 Guidance Enhanced Missile-TBM (GEM-T) missiles and 168 PAC-3 missiles (missile segment enhancement – MSE)

  • 54 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) launchers, 162 guided multiple launch rocket systems rockets/warheads (GMLRS)

 

Although many of these sales were already being discussed during the previous Obama administration and were generally uncontroversial, Trump did move forward a number of deals that Obama withheld due to human rights concerns. In addition to the precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia via the direct commercial sales (DCS) program, these included deals notified via FMS of 19 new F-16 fighter aircraft and upgrades to 20 F-16s to Bahrain in September (approx. $4 billion), and 12 Super Tucanos light attack aircraft to Nigeria in August ($593 million).

Below is a table of all 28 states, along with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, which requested U.S. arms sales via the FMS program in 2017, in billions of dollars, in order:

Country

Total Value

($ billion)

Saudi Arabia

17.187

Poland

11.200

Canada

5.565

Romania

5.150

Bahrain

3.964

Australia

2.873

Greece

2.484

UAE

2.000

United Kingdom

1.585

Iraq

1.506

New Zealand

1.460

Taiwan

1.363

Kuwait

1.201

Qatar

1.100

Kenya

0.671

Nigeria

0.593

Czech Republic

0.575

Singapore

0.481

India

0.441

Israel

0.440

NATO

0.334

Norway

0.170

Slovakia

0.150

Netherlands

0.145

South Korea

0.140

Switzerland

0.115

Japan

0.113

Georgia

0.075

Thailand

0.025

Below are the total values of all notified requests each year from 1997 to 2017, in billions of U.S. dollars, as compiled each year (in current dollars, unadjusted for inflation):

Year

Total Value
($, billions, current US dollars)

2017

63

2016

63

2015

51

2014

40

2013

56

2012

53

2011

25

2010

103

2009

39

2008

75

2007

39

2006

37

2005

12

2004

12

2003

7

2002

16

2001

19

2000

12

1999

21

1998

12

1997

11

ENDNOTES

1. The Department of State is also required to report to Congress any commercial sales it approves of “major defense equipment” that amount to $14 million or more, defense articles and services that equal or exceed $50 million, and any items defined as “significant military equipment.” As in the case of FMS sales, Congress can block the sale with a joint resolution of disapproval within 30 calendar days of notification (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea). Commercially licensed sales of firearms controlled under category I of the U.S. Munitions List valued at $1 million or more must also be notified to Congress but are not considered here. There are no official compilations of commercial agreement data comparable to the FMS notifications and what exists is often incomplete and less precise than data on government-to-government transactions (Theohary, Catherine A., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, December 19, 2016, p. 16), although the non-profit Security Assistance Monitor is compiling much of this information from public data (including on direct commercial sales [DCS], which are generally in the tens of billions but not as large as FMS). The annual Section 655 report, prepared by the State and Defense Departments for Congress, details commercial licenses approved, but states typically have four years to act under the licenses. The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has final responsibility for license applications for commercial defense trade exports and all issues related to defense trade compliance, enforcement, and reporting.

2. Congress approved the higher notification thresholds for NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand in legislation passed in September 2002. South Korea was added to this list in 2008, and Israel was added in 2010. Congress, however, is free to pass legislation to block or modify an arms sale at any time up to the point of delivery of the items involved.

Sources: Congressional Research Service, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and Department of State. For more details on Foreign Military Sales and other U.S. programs that result in arms transfer authorizations and deliveries, please also see the Security Assistance Monitor.

Conventional Arms Issues

Fact Sheet Categories:

The Ottawa Convention: Signatories and States-Parties

January 2018

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: January 2018

The Ottawa Convention, also referred to as the "Mine Ban Treaty," prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). It requires states-parties to destroy their stockpiled APLs within four years and eliminate all APL holdings, including mines currently planted in the soil, within 10 years. Countries may request a renewable extension, which can be up to 10 years long, to fulfill their destruction obligations. States-parties are also required annually to report to the UN secretary-general their total APL stockpiles, the technical characteristics of their APLs, the location of all mined areas, and the status of APL destruction programs.

The convention, which is of unlimited duration and open to all nations, entered into force March 1, 1999. As of January 2018, 164 countries (including Palestine) had ratified or acceded to the treaty, and one country, the Marshall Islands, has signed the accord but not ratified it. States-parties overwhelmingly come from Europe, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. About half of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Asia-Pacific regions have signed the treaty. For more information about the treaty, see “The Ottawa Convention at a Glance.”

Some key current and past producers and users of landmines, including the United States, China, India, Pakistan, and Russia, have not signed the treaty. The George W. Bush administration announced Feb. 27, 2004 that the United States would not join the Ottawa Convention. The Barack Obama administration changed that policy in 2014, expressing an intention to eventually join, and banning the production and acquisition of APLs and reserving their use for only on the Korean peninsula.  The United States is party to the 1996 amended mines protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which restricts but does not ban APL use.  

A precise accounting of the number of landmines planted globally is not possible. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of non-government organizations active in some 100 countries, has estimated that 61 states and areas have landmines on their territories as of November 2017.

The following is a complete list of all Ottawa Convention signatories and states-parties:

Country

Signature

Deposit

Afghanistan

 

9/11/02

Albania

9/8/98

2/29/00

Algeria

12/3/97

10/9/01

Andorra

12/3/97

6/29/98

Angola

12/4/97

7/5/02

Antigua & Barbuda

12/3/97

5/3/99

Argentina

12/4/97

9/14/99

Australia

12/3/97

1/14/99

Austria

12/3/97

6/29/98

Bahamas

12/3/97

7/31/98

Bangladesh

5/7/98

9/6/00

Barbados

12/3/97

1/26/99

Belarus

 

9/03/03

Belgium

12/3/97

9/4/98

Belize

2/27/98

4/23/98

Benin

12/3/97

9/25/98

Bhutan

 

8/18/05

Bolivia

12/3/97

6/9/98

Bosnia and Herzegovina

12/3/97

9/8/98

Botswana

12/3/97

3/1/00

Brazil

12/3/97

4/30/99

Brunei Darussalam

12/4/97

4/24/06

Bulgaria

12/3/97

9/4/98

Burkina Faso

12/3/97

9/16/98

Burundi

12/3/97

10/22/03

Cambodia

12/3/97

7/28/99

Cameroon

12/3/97

9/19/02

Canada

12/3/97

12/3/97

Cape Verde

12/4/97

5/14/01

Central African Republic

 

11/8/02

Chad

7/6/98

5/6/99

Chile

12/3/97

9/10/01

Colombia

12/3/97

9/6/00

Comoros

 

9/19/02

Congo

 

5/4/01

Cook Islands

12/3/97

3/15/06

Costa Rica

12/3/97

3/17/99

Cote d'Ivoire

12/3/97

6/30/00

Croatia

12/4/97

5/20/98

Cyprus

12/4/97

1/17/03

Czech Republic

12/3/97

10/26/99

Democratic Republic of Congo

 

5/2/02

Denmark

12/4/97

6/8/98

Djibouti

12/3/97

5/18/98

Dominica

12/3/97

3/26/99

Dominican Republic

12/3/97

6/30/00

Ecuador

12/4/97

4/29/99

El Salvador

12/4/97

1/27/99

Equatorial Guinea

 

9/16/98

Eriitrea

 

8/27/01

Estonia

 

5/12/04

Ethiopia

12/3/97

12/17/04

Fiji

12/3/97

6/10/98

Finland

 

1/09/12

France

12/3/97

7/23/98

Gabon

12/3/97

9/8/00

Gambia

12/4/97

9/23/02

Germany

12/3/97

7/23/98

Ghana

12/4/97

6/30/00

Greece

12/3/97

9/25/03

Grenada

12/3/97

8/19/98

Guatemala

12/3/97

3/26/99

Guinea

12/4/97

10/8/98

Guinea-Bissau

12/3/97

5/22/01

Guyana

12/4/97

8/5/03

Haiti

12/3/97

2/15/06

Holy See

12/4/97

2/17/98

Honduras

12/3/97

9/24/98

Hungary

12/3/97

4/6/98

Iceland

12/4/97

5/5/99

Indonesia

12/4/97

2/20/07

Iraq

 

8/15/07

Ireland

12/3/97

12/3/97

Italy

12/3/97

4/23/99

Jamaica

12/3/97

7/17/98

Japan

12/3/97

9/30/98

Jordan

8/11/98

11/13/98

Kenya

12/5/97

1/23/01

Kiribati

 

9/7/00

Kuwait

 

7/31/07

Latvia

 

7/1/05

Lesotho

12/4/97

12/2/98

Liberia

 

12/23/99

Liechtenstein

12/3/97

10/5/99

Lithuania

2/26/99

5/12/03

Luxembourg

12/4/97

6/14/99

Macedonia, FYR

 

9/9/98

Madagascar

12/4/97

9/16/99

Malawi

12/4/97

8/13/98

Malaysia

12/3/97

4/22/99

Maldives

10/1/98

9/7/00

Mali

12/3/97

6/2/98

Malta

12/4/97

5/7/01

Marshall Islands

12/4/97

 

Mauritania

12/3/97

7/21/00

Mauritius

12/3/97

12/3/97

Mexico

12/3/97

6/9/98

Moldova

12/3/97

9/8/00

Monaco

12/4/97

11/17/98

Montenegro

 

10/23/06

Mozambique

12/3/97

8/25/98

Namibia

12/3/97

9/21/98

Nauru

 

8/7/00

Netherlands

12/3/97

4/12/99

New Zealand

12/3/97

1/27/99

Nicaragua

12/4/97

11/30/98

Niger

12/4/97

3/23/99

Nigeria

 

9/27/01

Niue

12/3/97

4/15/98

Norway

12/3/97

7/9/98

Oman

 

8/20/14

Palau

 

11/19/07

Palestine

 

12/29/17

Panama

12/4/97

10/7/98

Papua New Guinea

 

6/28/04

Paraguay

12/3/97

11/13/98

Peru

12/3/97

6/17/98

Philippines

12/3/97

2/15/00

Poland

12/4/97

12/27/12

Portugal

12/3/97

2/19/99

Qatar

12/4/97

10/13/98

Romania

12/3/97

11/30/00

Rwanda

12/3/97

6/8/00

St. Kitts & Nevis

12/3/97

12/2/98

St. Lucia

12/3/97

4/13/99

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

12/3/97

8/1/01

Samoa

12/3/97

7/23/98

San Marino

12/3/97

3/18/98

Sao Tome & Principe

4/30/98

3/31/03

Senegal

12/3/97

9/24/98

Serbia & Montenegro

 

9/18/03

Seychelles

12/4/97

6/2/00

Sierra Leone

7/29/98

4/25/01

Slovakia

12/3/97

2/25/99

Slovenia

12/3/97

10/27/98

Solomon Islands

12/4/97

1/26/99

Somalia

 

4/16/12

South Africa

12/3/97

6/26/98

South Sudan

 

11/11/11

Spain

12/3/97

1/19/99

Sri Lanka

 

12/13/17

Sudan

12/4/97

10/13/03

Suriname

12/4/97

5/23/02

Swaziland

12/4/97

12/22/98

Sweden

12/4/97

11/30/98

Switzerland

12/3/97

3/24/98

Tajikistan

 

10/12/99

Tanzania

12/3/97

11/13/00

Thailand

12/3/97

11/27/98

Timor Leste

 

5/7/03

Togo

12/4/97

3/9/00

Trinidad & Tobago

12/4/97

4/27/98

Tunisia

12/4/97

7/9/99

Turkey

 

9/25/03

Turkmenistan

12/3/97

1/19/98

Tuvalu

 

9/13/11

Uganda

12/3/97

2/25/99

Ukraine

2/24/99

12/27/05

United Kingdom

12/3/97

7/31/98

Uruguay

12/3/97

6/7/01

Vanuatu

12/4/97

9/16/05

Venezuela

12/3/97

4/14/99

Yemen

12/4/97

9/1/98

Zambia

12/12/97

2/23/01

Zimbabwe

12/3/97

6/18/98

Updated by Sara Schmitt

Conventional Arms Issues

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The Ottawa Convention at a Glance

January 2018

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: January 2018

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, typically referred to as the "Ottawa Convention" or "Mine Ban Treaty," seeks to end the use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) worldwide. It was opened for signature on December 3, 1997, and it entered into force on March 1, 1999.

As of January 2018, 164 states are party to the treaty, including Palestine.  One country, the Marshall Islands, has signed but not ratified it.  There are 34 non-signatories, including major powers such as the United States, Russia, and China. Few countries in key regions of tension, namely the Middle East and South Asia, have opted to participate. For more information on signatories and states-parties to the treaty, see: “The Ottawa Convention: Signatories and States-Parties.”

Because of the treaty, international norms have now formed that discourage any country, signatory or not, from using mines.  Many non-signatories are in de facto compliance with the Ottawa Convention by refusing to use landmines and committing to voluntary destruction of stockpiles. Non-state armed groups continue to use mines, in particular improvised landmines (improvised explosive devices [IEDs] that meet the definition of banned APLs) in about 10 countries per year.  (Millions of mines are estimated to be planted in the ground in 61 countries and disputed areas.

Global APL stockpiles are thought to be around 50 million mines, down from earlier estimates of about 100 million. Some of the countries that suffer the most from the humanitarian impacts of landmines include Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Chad, and Iraq.

The Obama administration undertook a review of its policy towards the Ottawa Convention and in 2014 expressed an intention to eventually accede to the treaty. US policy now bans the production and acquisition of APLs as well use of the weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula.

Prohibitions: States-parties commit to not using, developing, producing, acquiring, retaining, stockpiling, or transferring anti-personnel landmines, which are defined by the treaty as mines "designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons." APLs that are remotely triggered, such as claymores, are not proscribed, nor are anti-vehicle mines, including those equipped with anti-handling devices, which are designed to protect anti-vehicles mines from being tampered with or moved.  The treaty also forbids signatories from assisting or encouraging any other state or party from engaging in the activities outlawed by the treaty.

APL Destruction and Clearance: Each state-party is expected to destroy all APLs stockpiled in arsenals, except those retained for demining training, within four years of becoming bound by the treaty. Collectively, states parties have destroyed more than 50 million stockpiled landmines, with only five states, at most, still to complete destruction. Greece and Ukraine missed their deadlines to complete stockpile destruction.

Within 10 years of its entry into force date, each country is required to destroy all APLs under its jurisdiction and control, including those planted in the soil. A country may request renewable extensions of up to 10 years to complete this clearance task. A majority of participants at a meeting of states-parties or review conference must approve an extension request. Many states have sought and received extensions and more than 25 countries have completed clearance of all mined areas.  

Cooperation and Assistance: The treaty calls on any state-party "in a position to do so" to assist other states-parties in aiding mine victims, providing demining assistance, and helping with mine destruction. States-parties are expected to be as helpful as possible in making sure all states-parties have access to equipment, material, and scientific and technological information for implementing the treaty without "undue restrictions."

Transparency: Each state-party is to provide the United Nations with a comprehensive report on the numbers, types, and locations of all APLs under its control as well as the status of all programs for destroying APLs. An initial report is required 180 days after the treaty becomes legally binding for each state-party, and thereafter reports are expected annually by April 30.

Compliance: The treaty did not create an implementation or verification body or outline punitive measures for noncompliance. A state-party may question the compliance of another state-party, and a special meeting of states-parties can be convened to address the allegation. States-parties can establish a fact-finding mission to investigate the alleged noncompliance and, if necessary, call on the state-party in question to address the compliance issue.

Amendment and Withdrawal: Treaty amendments can be proposed, and then approved by two-thirds of all states-parties attending a special amendment conference. A state-party may withdraw from the treaty six months after submitting an instrument of withdrawal, though it will not take effect if the country is engaged in armed conflict.

Updated by Sara Schmitt

Conventional Arms Issues

Fact Sheet Categories:

The Wassenaar Arrangement at a Glance

December 2017

Contact: Daryl KimballExecutive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: December 2017 

The Wassenaar Arrangement, formally established in July 1996, is a voluntary export control regime whose 42 members [1] exchange information on transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies. Through such exchanges, Wassenaar aims to promote "greater responsibility" among its members in exports of weapons and dual-use goods and to prevent "destabilizing accumulations." Unlike its predecessor, the Cold War-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), which was created to restrict exports to the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc, Wassenaar is not targeted at any region or group of states, but rather at "states of concern" to members. Wassenaar members also lack veto authority over other member's proposed exports, a power that COCOM members exercised.

To promote transparency, Wassenaar calls on states to make a series of voluntary information exchanges and notifications on their export activities related to weapons and items appearing on the arrangement's two control lists.

For the Munitions List (Conventional Weapons):

Every six months, members exchange information on deliveries of conventional arms to non-Wassenaar members that fall under eight broad weapon categories: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-caliber artillery, military aircraft/unmanned aerial vehicles, military and attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems, and small arms and light weapons. Members added the final category in December 2003 after years of debate. The ACV, aircraft, and helicopter categories include models designed to perform reconnaissance or conduct command of troops missions.

For the Dual-Use Goods and Technologies List:

Tier 1: Basic Items

Twice per year, members exchange information on all export licenses denied on proposed transfers to non-Wassenaar members.

Tier 2: Sensitive Items and its subset of Very Sensitive Items

  • Within 60 days, members are requested to notify the Wassenaar Secretariat of any export licenses denied on proposed transfers to non-Wassenaar members.
  • Twice per year, members exchange information on all export licenses issued or transfers made to non-Wassenaar members.
  • For the subset of Very Sensitive items, such as stealth technology materials and advanced radar, members are called on to "exert extreme vigilance" in exports.
  • Within 60 days, members are requested to notify the Wassenaar Secretariat of any export license approvals of transactions that are "essentially identical" to transactions that another Wassenaar member denied within the past three years. Wassenaar members are not obligated to deny transfers previously denied by others.

Although Wassenaar has overcome a great deal of growing pains, problems persist. Foremost among the arrangement's difficulties is that members continue to be divided over Wassenaar's scope, primarily whether the arrangement should become more than just a body for exchanging and collecting information. Because Wassenaar operates by consensus, a single country can block any proposal. In earlier years, a few members consistently refused to fully participate in voluntary information exchanges and notifications on dual-use goods, though participation has reportedly improved.[2] In addition, there is no consensus among members on which countries are "states of concern" or what constitutes a "destabilizing" transfer. Another limiting factor is that some major arms exporters, such as Belarus, China, and Israel are not members.

During the arrangement's years of operation, Wassenaar members have reaffirmed their commitment to preventing terrorist groups and individuals from acquiring conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, agreed to "exercise maximum restraint" in exports to the Great Lakes region of Africa, gradually expanded the types of weapons exports that information is exchanged upon, and agreed on the importance of "responsible export policies" on small arms and light weapons. At its December 1998 plenary meeting, the members approved a paper of non-binding criteria to help governments determine whether potential arms exports could lead to destabilizing accumulations.[3] Wassenaar members have also agreed on non-binding criteria to guide exports of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles, formally referred to as man-portable air defense Systems (MANPADS), and endorsed voluntary "best practices" for disposing of surplus military equipment, enforcing national export controls, and controlling Very Sensitive dual-use exports. They have also approved non-binding criteria to guide exports of small arms and light weapons, agreed to exercise greater control on arms brokers, and committed to better regulate exports of dual-use goods purchased by recipients subject to arms embargos if the item is intended for a military end-use.


ENDNOTES:

1. The 42 participating states in the Wassenaar Arrangement are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

2. Wassenaar members agreed that all information exchanges, notifications, and Wassenaar discussions be kept confidential.

3. The Arms Control Association can provide copies upon request.

Conventional Arms Issues

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Cluster Munitions at a Glance

December 2017

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: December 2017

Cluster munitions, also called cluster bombs or CBUs, are gravity bombs, artillery shells, and rockets that fragment into small bomblets or grenades. Some cluster munitions disperse only two bomblets while others can spread up to hundreds of submunitions over a large area. These weapons are designed for use against massed formations of troops and armor or broad targets, such as airfields. Cluster submunitions, however, sometimes fail to explode on impact and can kill or maim civilians who later come into contact with them. These unexploded submunitions may remain dangerous for decades. According to Cluster Munition Monitor 2017, at least 21,200 cluster munition casualties have been confirmed globally since the 1990s. About 17,291 came from unexploded submunitions, and about 3,983 from strikes. Estimated totals, however, are considered much higher, and according to the Monitor, “are likely a better indicator of the true numbers.” Estimates for a global total range from 58,000 to 85,000. Almost all reported cluster munition casualties have been civilians, in large part because of the unwillingness of militaries to provide information.

Cluster munitions have been used during armed conflict in 40 countries and four disputed territories since the end of World War II. Almost every part of the world has experienced cluster munition use at some point over the past 70 years, including Southeast Asia, Southeast Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Although cluster munitions first saw use in World War II and more than 50 countries have since acquired stockpiles of such arms, efforts to regulate or ban the use of cluster munitions gained greater attention and momentum after the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, a Shiite organization that the United States identifies as a terrorist group. Israel’s extensive cluster munitions use in the last 72 hours of that conflict resulted in an estimated one million unexploded bomblets scattered across southern Lebanon, arousing some strong condemnation. Jan Egeland, then-UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, blasted Israel’s use of cluster munitions as “shocking and completely immoral.”

Convention on Cluster Munitions

The Convention on Certain Conventional Munitions (CCW) did not restrict the use of cluster munitions. Although a group of states initially sought to establish a new protocol banning cluster munitions in the CCW, years of negotiations in the consensus-based forum failed to produce such a protocol. Frustrated with the slow-moving CCW approach, Norway at the November 2006 review conference announced an alternative effort to negotiate a treaty on cluster munitions. The inaugural meeting of that effort convened February 2007 in Oslo. Of the 49 governments attending the conference, 46 ultimately signed the “Oslo Declaration” to “conclude, by 2008, a legally binding instrument that will…prohibit the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.”

Much of the debate among participating governments over the treaty centered on two issues. The first was whether future use restrictions would take effect immediately or, as Germany argued, be phased in to allow time for the development of alternative weapons. The second was whether the treaty should outlaw all cluster munitions or permit some exemptions for certain types or for their use in certain circumstances. Sweden called for a treaty balancing “legitimate humanitarian and military interests,” while the United Kingdom sought exemptions for systems equipped with self-destruct or self-deactivation devices that are supposed to render unexploded munitions harmless after a short period of time. Other countries, such as Norway, Ireland, and Mexico, favored a total ban.

On May 30, 2008 the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions adopted a comprehensive new treaty banning cluster munitions. The 107 states adopted the treaty. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is a legally binding international treaty that prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions and requires clearance of remnants and destruction of stocks. It requires states to provide assistance to survivors and their communities and builds on existing international human rights and humanitarian law. The treaty requires states to destroy existing stockpiles within eight years and to clear contaminated land within 10 years. The obligations relating to victim assistance were groundbreaking; they demanded the full realization of the rights of people affected by cluster munitions and require states to implement effective victim assistance measures. 

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was signed by 94 countries at the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008, and entered into force on August 1, 2010, after 30 states ratified it by February 16, 2010. In November 2010, the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (1MSP) took place in Vientiane, Lao PDR. After holding their First Meeting of States Parties in Lao PDR in November 2010, states parties convened in Lebanon, another highly contaminated country, for the convention’s Second Meeting of States Parties on September 12–16, 2011. At the meeting, states parties adopted the Beirut Progress Report, charting implementation of the Vientiane Action Plan, which guides the work of the convention through to its First Review Conference in 2015.

Status of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions

A total of 102 states have ratified or acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to become full states-parties as of 1 August 2017, and 17 states that have signed have yet to ratify. States-parties include former producers and users of cluster munitions such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom (UK). Since the convention entered into force on August 1, 2010, becoming binding international law, states can no longer sign, but must instead accede.

A total of 53 signatories have ratified the convention since August 2010, including countries where cluster munitions have been used (Afghanistan and Mauritania), former cluster munition producers (Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland), and countries that have stockpiled cluster munitions (Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Mauritania, Sweden, and Switzerland). 

Unilateral restrictions on use

Several states that have not joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions have imposed restrictions on the possible future use of cluster munitions. Romania has said it restricts the use of cluster munitions to use exclusively on its own territory. Poland has said it would use cluster munitions for defensive purposes only, and does not intend to use them outside its own territory. Estonia and Finland have made similar declarations. During the CCW negotiations on cluster munitions, several states that have not signed or ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions publicly stated that they were prepared to accept a ban on the use of cluster munitions produced before 1980 as part of the proposed CCW protocol, including Russia, China, India, and South Korea. The CMC urges that as an interim measure toward joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions, these states should institute the commitment made at CCW as national policy. 

U.S. Cluster Munitions Policy

In June 2008, the U.S. Department of Defense released a directive requiring that any U.S. use of cluster munitions before 2018 that results in a one percent or higher unexploded ordnance (UXO) rate—which includes all but a tiny fraction of the US arsenal—must be approved by a “Combatant Commander,” a very high-ranking military official and that after 2018, the United States would no longer use cluster munitions that result in more than one percent UXO.

However, in a Defense Department memorandum circulated on November 30, 2017, the Trump administration eliminated the 2019 deadline to stop using cluster munitions resulting in more than one percent UXO but retained the requirement for Combatant Commander authorization for their use.

The United States is a producer and exporter of cluster bombs. In 2011, the United States reported that it possessed more than 6 million cluster munitions. In 2001, the United States adopted a policy that all cluster munitions produced domestically after late 2004 must have submunitions with failure rates of less than one percent. As with all U.S. arms exports, transfers of cluster munitions are governed by conditions restricting their re-transfer and use by importers.

One such agreement applies to U.S. cluster munitions shipped to Israel. Although secret, the agreement is generally understood to prohibit the use of cluster munitions in populated areas and against targets that are not clearly military. Following the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, the Department of State’s Office of Defense Trade Controls opened an investigation into whether Israel had violated the agreement. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said that the preliminary report, delivered to the president and Congress in January 2007, found that “there likely could have been some violations.” The United States sanctioned Israel for misusing cluster munitions in the past. The Ronald Reagan administration suspended cluster munitions sales to Israel between 1982 and 1988 following Israel’s widespread use of such arms during an earlier invasion of Lebanon.

While as recently as 2006, the United States opposed negotiating a protocol on cluster munitions at CCW review conferences, in 2007, it changed its position. Ronald Bettauer, head of the U.S. delegation, attributed the reversal “to the importance of this issue, concerns raised by other countries, and our own concerns about the humanitarian implications of these weapons.” Department of State Legal Adviser Harold Koh stated November 9, 2009, that the United States has determined that it’s “national security interests cannot be fully ensured consistent with the terms” of the CCM but that “the United States remains committed to negotiate a legally binding Protocol on Cluster Munitions in the CCW.”

Research Assistance by Daria Medvedeva

 
Conventional Arms Issues

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The Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions (IACTCW) At a Glance

Contact: Jeff Abramson, Nonresident Senior Fellow, [email protected]

Updated: September 2016

On November 21, 2002, the Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions entered into force. Negotiated by the 35-member Organization of American States (OAS)1 and opened for signature in June 1999, the convention is an unprecedented, regional transparency regime that requires its states-parties to annually report on their weapons exports and imports, as well as make timely notifications of their weapons acquisitions, whether imported or produced domestically. Twenty-one countries, including the United States, have signed the convention and seventeen have ratified or acceded to it. (States-parties are in bold and signatories are in italics in footnote 1.)

Terms of the Convention

Annual Reports: No later than June 15 each year, states-parties will submit to the OAS General Secretariat a report on their exports and imports of battle tanks, armored combat vehicles (ACVs), large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile systems. These seven categories mirror those of the voluntary U.N. Register of Conventional Arms, which calls on all countries to annually submit reports on their import and export of these same weapons to the United Nations. In their annual OAS reports, states-parties must identify the type and quantity of weapons transferred and name the exporting or importing country. Additional information, such as the designation or model of the weapon, may be volunteered.

Notification of Acquisitions: No later than 90 days after incorporation of a weapon system into a state-party's armed forces inventory, a notification must be submitted to the OAS General Secretariat. This notification requirement applies to both imported and domestically manufactured weapons in the same seven categories covered by the annual report. The United States, a leading proponent of the convention, had sought inclusion of a provision for advance notification, but Latin American countries objected. States-parties are free to provide advance notification if they choose to do so.

The OAS General Secretariat will transmit the annual reports and notifications received to all states-parties, though the information will not be made publicly available. States-parties are free to consult with each other on the shared information.

Background

The convention grew out of a June 1997 OAS General Assembly resolution calling on members to consider a legal framework for advance notification of arms acquisitions. Shortly thereafter in August 1997, the Clinton administration dropped a two-decade-old policy of "presumption against" the export of advanced weapons to Latin America. This policy change cleared the way for U.S. arms manufacturers to compete for weapons sales to the region. Former President Jimmy Carter and several Latin American heads of state, both past and those in office at the time, criticized the new Clinton arms transfer policy as one that would divert scarce resources from more important government investments, such as education, and lead to increased regional tensions. Since the U.S. policy change, the United States completed a deal to sell 10 F-16 fighter jets to Chile and offered combat aircraft to Brazil. Citing other economic priorities, Brazil postponed in January 2003 a decision on buying fighter jets.

In comparison with other regions, Latin America is a relatively small arms market. The region's arms imports accounted for roughly two to five percent of the world arms market from 1990-2000.

Note
1. The 35 members of the OAS are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, PeruSt. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. 

Conventional Arms Issues

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Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) At a Glance

September 2017

Contact: Jeff AbramsonNon-Resident Senior Fellow for Arms Control and Conventional Arms Transfers, [email protected]

Updated: September 2017

Seeking to restrict or outlaw specific types of weapons used in armed conflict, 51 states negotiated the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1980. The agreement is formally known as the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects. It is also sometimes referred to as the Inhumane Weapons Convention. The convention aims to protect military troops from inhumane injuries and prevent noncombatants from accidentally being wounded or killed by certain types of arms. When it entered into force in December 1983, the treaty applied to incendiary weapons, mines and booby-traps, and weapons designed to injure through very small fragments. Since then, treaty states-parties—numbering 120 total as of August 2017—have added provisions to ban blinding laser weapons and address lingering dangers posed by unexploded munitions leftover after combat ends.

The Convention

The operative provisions of the CCW are contained in several protocols annexed to the convention. States that become CCW members must sign on to at least two of the convention’s protocols, but do not have to become party to all of them. Currently, there are five protocols in force (see below). All states-parties must agree to the addition of a new protocol. Each protocol is only binding on those states-parties that ratify it. 

Initially, the scope of the convention covered only international armed conflicts. However, states-parties amended a single protocol in 1996 to apply to intrastate conflicts and in 2001 elected to extend that modification to the entire convention. Still, the change only applies to those states-parties ratifying the amendment, and it does not automatically extend to new protocols. Henceforth, states-parties must specify whether new protocols they ratify cover intrastate conflicts in addition to interstate wars.

The convention lacks verification and enforcement mechanisms and spells out no formal process for resolving compliance concerns.

A state-party can refute its commitment to the convention or any of the protocols, but it will remain legally bound until one year after notifying the treaty depositary, the UN Secretary-General, of its intent to be free of its obligations.

Protocols to the Convention

Protocol I: Non-detectable Fragments

Protocol I prohibits the use of any weapon designed to wound or kill with small fragments that cannot be detected by x-rays. Conventional x-ray imaging cannot locate small pieces of glass, plastic, or wood lodged in human tissue. This makes it prohibitively difficult for doctors to remove the fragments, effectively preventing victims from receiving necessary treatment.

Amended Protocol II: Landmines, Booby-Traps, and Other Devices

Protocol II, which was amended in May 1996, regulates but does not ban the use of landmines and booby-traps. Anti-personnel landmines (APLs) must be kept in clearly marked and protected minefields or be equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms that disarm and render the mine unusable after a certain period of time. Mines dropped from aircraft or delivered by artillery or missiles must be outfitted with self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms. All APLs must further be detectable using common mine detection equipment to enable them to be located and safely removed after a conflict ends. The responsibility for clearing any mines is on the government controlling the territory where the mines are located.

Amended Protocol II entered into force in 1998. The 102 countries bound by the protocol include most of the world’s major current or past landmine producers—China, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States—which have refused to join the Ottawa Convention banning anti-personnel landmines.

Protocol III: Incendiary Weapons

Protocol III regulates the use of weapons designed to set fire to or burn their target. The protocol proscribes targeting civilians with incendiary weapons and restricts the use of air-delivered incendiary weapons against military targets in close proximity to concentrations of noncombatants. It also prohibits parties from targeting forests or other plant cover unless the vegetation is being used to conceal military forces. The protocol only covers weapons created intentionally to set fire or burn, such as flamethrowers. Weapons that ignite fires or burn as a side effect are not subject to the protocol.

Protocol IV: Blinding Lasers

Added in 1996, this protocol prohibits the use of lasers specifically designed to cause permanent blindness. It further obliges states-parties to make every effort to avoid causing permanent blindness through the use of other lasers. While prohibiting the use of blinding lasers, the convention does not rule out their development or stockpiling. However, it does outlaw any trade in such arms.

Protocol V: Explosive Remnants of War

In November 2003, states-parties approved this protocol to deal with unexploded and abandoned ordnance left over after fighting ends—so-called explosive remnants of war (ERW). The protocol, which entered into force Nov. 12, 2006, covers munitions, such as artillery shells, grenades, and gravity bombs, that fail to explode as intended, and any unused explosives left behind and uncontrolled by armed forces. Such weapons pose severe threats to civilians because they could explode without cause or accidentally be triggered to detonate. Like the landmines protocol, the government controlling an area with explosive remnants of war is responsible for clearing such munitions. However, that government may ask for technical or financial assistance from others, including any party responsible for putting the munitions in place originally, to complete the task. No state-party is obligated to render assistance.

Other Issues

CCW states-parties have been unable to reach consensus on starting negotiations on several other matters, including adding a compliance mechanism to better ensure that states-parties live up to their commitments and a provision to ban small-caliber bullets because they can cause major internal injuries by ricocheting or tumbling around inside a body. One controversial issue is whether the body should negotiate on limiting the use of anti-vehicle mines, including requirements that such mines be equipped with self-destruct and self-deactivation mechanisms. Some countries, such as China and Russia, have objected to this proposal.

Frustrated with the CCW process, some treaty members led by Norway in February 2007 launched negotiations outside the CCW to ban cluster munitions “that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.” The Cluster Munitions Convention was adopted in May 2008 and has 102 states-parties as of August 1, 2017. See Cluster Munitions at a Glance for more information. 

Conventional Arms Issues

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Proposed Major U.S. Arms Export Agreements, January 2016—December 2016

Countries which sought the highest values in U.S. arms exports in 2016 and their specific requests


The value of proposed U.S. major conventional arms sales agreements totaled nearly $63 billion in 2016—the second highest amount during Barack Obama’s 8-year presidency. More than two-thirds (nearly $44 billion) involved just four Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries—Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia—that each requested greater than $5 billion in sales. Other state requests amounting to at least $1 billion came from Australia, Iraq, Japan, Norway and the United Kingdom. In total, notifications were made involving 26 different countries plus NATO in 2016.

In 2016, the U.S. Congress approved the sale to Qatar of the new F-15QA fighter aircraft to Qatar, which is likely to be a variant of the F-15 Strike Eagle shown here. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon II)The United States conducts government-to-government arms transfers through the Defense Department’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Not all notified sales result in final transactions. Under the 1976 Arms Export Control Act, Congress must be notified of proposed sales of “major defense equipment”—as defined on the U.S. Munitions List—that equals or exceeds $14 million; defense articles and services that are not defined as “major defense equipment” that total $50 million or more; and construction or design services amounting to or surpassing $200 million.[1] However, if the proposed sale involves NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, or New Zealand, the notification thresholds are $25 million for major defense equipment, $100 million for other defense articles and services, and $300 million for construction or design services.[2] Once notified, Congress has 30 calendar days (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) to block a sale by passing a joint resolution of disapproval, although it has never stopped a sale once formally notified.

Arms sales notified in 2016 appeared consistent with efforts made by President Obama to gain regional support from GCC members during the negotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action addressing Iran’s nuclear program. In May 2015, Obama pledged to “help our Gulf partners improve their own capacity to defend themselves” and to “streamline and expedite the transfer of critical defense capabilities.” 

In 2016, Qatar requested the most expensive package of arms sales agreements – more than $22 billion – with weapons, training, and support for 72 F-15QA fighter aircraft comprising the lion’s share ($21.5 billion). Other requests included support and engines for 8 C-17 heavy lift aircraft, 50 Javelin guided missiles, as well as fast patrol boats. 

Kuwait followed Qatar as the only country requesting more than $10 billion in arms sales in 2016 (approximately $12.45 billion). Most of the proposed sales to Kuwait consisted of 40 F/A 18E/F Super Hornets and related equipment, training and support ($10.1 billion). Kuwait also requested equipment to recapitalize 218 M1A2 tanks, support for its F-18 C/D fighter aircraft, radar systems, and 750 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits designed to make gravity bombs into precision-guided weapons.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia requested sales valued at approximately $5 billion each. Of all proposed sales in 2016, those to Riyadh proved most controversial. In September, 27 senators voted unsuccessfully to block a proposed $1.15 billion sale to provide or repair 153 tanks. In December, the administration notified Congress of a larger $3.5 billion potential sale comprised of 48 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters and related equipment, training and support. In 2015 and 2016, Saudi Arabia faced national and international condemnation for its conduct leading a coalition fighting in Yemen, during which hospitals and other civilian areas were attacked by Saudi forces. 

The UAE’s 2016 request included 37 Apache helicopters, 400 Hellfire missiles, and more than 14,000 bombs among its primarily airpower-focused potential purchases.

Below is a chart of the top five countries that sought the highest values in U.S. arms exports in 2016, along with some of their specific requests. 

Country

Total Value

Weapons/Services

Qatar

$22.29 billion

  • 72 F-15QA multirole fighter aircraft
  • Support and parts for 8 C-17 aircraft
  • 50 Javelin missiles
  • MkV Fast Patrol Boats, including weapons & training

Kuwait

$12.45 billion

  • 32 F/A 18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft
  • 8 F/A 18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft
  • Recapitalization of 218 M1A2 tanks
  • 750 JDAM tail kits for 500-pound bombs (250), 1000-pound bombs (250), and 2000-pound bombs (250 kits)

United Arab Emirates

$5.06 billion

  • 28 AH-64E Apache helicopters (remanufactured)
  • 9 AH-64E Apache helicopters (new)
  • 14,640 bombs with related fuzes and guidance kits (for BLU 109, 111 and 117 bombs)
  • 4000 AGM-114 R/K Hellfire missiles

Saudi Arabia

$5.01 billion

  • 48 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters
  • 153 M1Al/A2 tank structures for conversion to 133 M1A2S main battle tanks and 20 battle damage replacements for existing tanks

United Kingdom

$4.20 billion

  • 9 P-8A maritime patrol aircraft
  • 26 Certifiable Predator B remotely piloted aircraft

Below is a table of all 26 states, along with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency, which requested U.S. arms sales in 2016, in billions of dollars, in order:

Country

Total value
($ billion)

Qatar

22.29

Kuwait

12.45

UAE

5.06

Saudi Arabia

5.01

United Kingdom

4.20

Iraq

3.35

Japan

2.72

Australia

2.02

Norway

1.75

Pakistan

.699

Peru

.668

Oman

.311

Argentina

.300

Israel

.300

Egypt

.294

NATO

.231

South Korea

.206

Poland

.200

Finland

.156

Chile

.140

France

.120

Jordan

.115

Morocco

.108

Tunisia

.101

Indonesia

.095

Afghanistan

.060

Philippines

.025

Below are the total values of all notified requests each year from 1997 to 2016, in billions of U.S. dollars, as compiled each year (in current dollars, unadjusted for inflation):

Year

Total Value
($, billions, current US dollars)

2016

63

2015

51

2014

40

2013

56

2012

53

2011

25

2010

103

2009

39

2008

75

2007

39

2006

37

2005

12

2004

12

2003

7

2002

16

2001

19

2000

12

1999

21

1998

12

1997

11

—JEFF ABRAMSON, nonresident senior fellow, and ALICIA JENSEN and DANIELLE PRESKITT, research interns

ENDNOTES

1. The Department of State is also required to report to Congress any commercial sales it approves of “major defense equipment” that amount to $14 million or more, defense articles and services that equal or exceed $50 million, and any items defined as “significant military equipment.” As in the case of FMS sales, Congress can block the sale with a joint resolution of disapproval within 30 calendar days of notification (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea). Commercially licensed sales of firearms controlled under category I of the U.S. Munitions List valued at $1 million or more must also be notified to Congress but are not considered here. There are no official compilations of commercial agreement data comparable to the FMS notifications and what exists is often incomplete and less precise than data on government-to-government transactions (Theohary, Catherine A., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, December 19, 2016, p. 16). The annual Section 655 report, prepared by the State and Defense Departments for Congress, details commercial licenses approved, but states have four years to act under the licenses. The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls has final responsibility for license applications for commercial defense trade exports and all issues related to defense trade compliance, enforcement, and reporting.

2. Congress approved the higher notification thresholds for NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand in legislation passed in September 2002. South Korea was added to this list in 2008, and Israel was added in 2010. Congress, however, is free to pass legislation to block or modify an arms sale at any time up to the point of delivery of the items involved.

Sources: Congressional Research Service, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and Department of State. For more details on Foreign Military Sales and other U.S. programs that result in arms transfer authorizations and deliveries, please also see the Security Assistance Monitor.

Strategic Arms Control and Policy

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The Arms Trade Treaty At a Glance

January 2016

Contact: Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: January 2016

Summary

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) establishes common standards for the international trade of conventional weapons and seeks to reduce the illicit arms trade. The treaty aims to reduce human suffering caused by illegal and irresponsible arms transfers, improve regional security and stability, as well as to promote accountability and transparency by state parties concerning transfers of conventional arms. The ATT does not place restrictions on the types or quantities of arms that may be bought, sold, or possessed by states. It also does not impact a state’s domestic gun control laws or other firearm ownership policies.

After nearly two decades of advocacy and diplomacy, a UN conference was convened to negotiate the ATT in July 2012, but fell short of reaching consensus on a final text. Another two week-long conference was convened in March 2013 to complete work on the treaty. However, Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked consensus on the final treaty text, leading treaty supporters to move it to the UN General Assembly on for approval. On April 2, 2013, the UN General Assembly endorsed the ATT by a vote of 156-3, with 23 abstentions. The treaty opened for signature on June 3, 2013, and entered into force on Dec. 23, 2014.

(Read the full treaty text here)

What the Arms Trade Treaty Does

  • The Arms Trade Treaty requires all states-parties to adopt basic regulations and approval processes for the flow of weapons across international borders, establishes common international standards that must be met before arms exports are authorized, and requires annual reporting of imports and exports to a treaty secretariat. In particular, the treaty:
  • requires that states “establish and maintain a national control system, including a national control list” and “designate competent national authorities in order to have an effective and transparent national control system regulating the transfer of conventional arms”;
  • prohibits arms transfer authorizations to states if the transfer would violate “obligations under measures adopted by the United Nations Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, in particular arms embargoes” or under other “relevant international obligations” or if the 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”;
  • requires states to assess the potential that the arms exported would “contribute to or undermine peace and security” or could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, acts of terrorism, or transnational organized crime; to consider measures to mitigate the risk of these violations; and, if there still remains an “overriding risk” of “negative consequences,” to “not authorize the export”;
  • applies under Article 2(1) to all conventional arms within the seven categories of the UN Register of Conventional Arms (battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers) and small arms and light weapons;
  • requires that states “establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition/munitions fired, launched or delivered by” the conventional arms listed in Article 2(1) and “parts and components…that provide the capability to assemble” the conventional arms listed in that article;
  • requires each state to “take the appropriate measures, pursuant to its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction” of conventional arms covered under Article 2(1);
  • requires each state to “take measures to prevent…diversion” of conventional arms covered under Article 2(1);
  • requires each state to submit annually to the treaty secretariat a report of the preceding year’s “authorized or actual export and imports of conventional arms covered under Article 2(1)” and allows states to exclude “commercially sensitive or national security information”

Basic Treaty Obligations

To be in compliance with the ATT, states-parties must:

  • establish and maintain an effective national control system for the export, import, transit, and transshipment of and brokering activities related to (all defined as “transfers” in the ATT) the eight categories of conventional arms covered by the ATT, as well as exports of related ammunition and of parts and components that are used for assembling conventional arms covered by the treaty (Articles 3, 4, and 5.2);
  • establish and maintain a national control list (Article 5.3) and making it available to other states-parties (Article 5.4);
  • designate competent national authorities responsible for maintaining this system (Article 5.5);
  • designate at least one national contact point responsible for exchanging information related to the implementation of the ATT (Article 5.6);
  • prohibit transfers of conventional arms, ammunition, or parts and components for the eight categories of conventional arms covered by the ATT that would violate obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter or international agreements relating to the transfer or illicit trafficking of conventional arms or where there is knowledge that the items will be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, or other war crimes (Article 6);
  • review applications for exports of the eight categories of conventional arms covered by the treaty and conducting a national export assessment on the risk that the exported arms could have “negative consequences” for peace, security, and human rights, denying an arms export if the assessment determines that there is an overriding risk that the exported arms will be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law or offenses under international conventions or protocols relating to terrorism or international organized crime and taking into account the risk of the exported arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children (Article 7);
  • take measures to regulate conventional arms imports (Article 8);
  • when importing conventional arms, provide information to assist the exporting state-party in conducting its national export assessment, including by providing documentation on the end use or end user (Article 8);
  • take measures, where necessary and feasible, to regulate the transit and transshipment of conventional arms (Article 9);
  • take measures to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction (Article 10);
  • take measures, including risk assessments, mitigation measures, cooperation, and information sharing, to prevent the diversion of conventional arms to the illicit market or for unauthorized end use and end users (Article 11);
  • maintain national records for each export authorization or delivery of conventional arms for at least 10 years (Article 12);
  • provide annual reports to the secretariat on export and import authorizations or deliveries of conventional arms to be distributed to states-parties (Article 13);
  • take appropriate measures to enforce national laws and regulations to implement the treaty (Article 14); and
  • cooperate with other states-parties in order to implement the ATT effectively (Article 15). 

Timeline of treaty negotiations

October 1995: Dr. Oscar Arias calls upon fellow Noble Laureates to promote an international agreement regulating the trade in conventional arms.

May 1997: The Noble Laureate Initiative is officially launched in New York City. The initiative endorses an arms trade Code of Conduct to lay the foundations of a future arms trade treaty.

October 18, 2006 - UN General Assembly passes Resolution 61/89 with 153 votes. The resolution instructs UN Secretary General to undertake an exploration for a future arms trade treaty. The United States votes against the resolution, the only country to do so.

September 2007: The UN Secretary General appoints a group of government experts to examine the “feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.”

December 2008: The UN General Assembly (Res. 63/240) endorses the report and convened an Open-Ended Working Group to provide a more public forum for further discussion of these and other substantive issues.

October 14, 2009: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announces that the United States will support the arms trade treaty negotiation process, and would vote in favor of a General Assembly Resolution creating a treaty conference.

December 2009: The UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 64/48, establishing a treaty negotiating conference to be held in 2012 to draft the text of a legally binding arms trade treaty. The resolution also mandates all treaty negotiations will conducted on the basis of consensus.

July 2-27, 2012: ATT negotiating conference meets for four consecutive weeks in New York. The conference participants fail to reach consensus on a final treaty text.

November 2012: The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passes a resolution mandating that a second ATT negotiating conference be convened in March 2013.

March 18-28, 2013: The second ATT negotiating conference convenes. A final treaty text is agreed upon. The treaty is blocked from consensus approval by Iran, North Korea, and Syria. A group of 90 countries, including the United States, push the treaty forward to the UN General Assembly for adoption.

April 3, 2013: The UN General Assembly adopts the Arms Trade Treaty by a vote of 153-3, with 22 abstentions.

June 3, 2013: The ATT opens for signature. Sixty-seven countries sign on the treaty’s opening day.

September 23, 2013: The United States becomes the 91st state to sign the ATT.

December 24, 2014: The ATT enters into force, 90 days after the date of the 50th ratification. 

August 24-27, 2015: The first Conference of States-Parties for the ATT is held in Cancun, Mexico.

- Updated by Shervin Taheran

Conventional Arms Issues

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MANPADS at a Glance

March 2013

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x107

Updated: March 2013

Man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) are surface-to-air missiles that can be fired by an individual or a small team of people against aircraft. These weapon systems often are described as shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. The United States and the Soviet Union first deployed MANPADS—the Redeye and Strela systems respectively—in the 1960s to provide their infantries with portable anti-aircraft weapons. Since their introduction, more than 20 states have manufactured an estimated one million MANPADS for national stockpiles or export. At least 102 countries have or have had MANPADS in their arsenals. The US government estimates that approximately 500,000-750,000 MANPADS remain in stockpiles around the world, though it is difficult to estimate the number of operable systems.

Three general types of MANPADS exist: command line of sight, laser guided, and infra-red seekers. Command line-of-sight MANPADS are guided to their targets through the use of a remote control. Laser-guided or laser beam rider MANPADS follow a laser projected onto the target. The most common MANPADS, however, are infrared seekers that acquire their target by detecting the heat of an aircraft’s engine. They are considered the easiest to operate and include the Soviet-era Strela and Igla weapons, as well as the U.S. Stinger. Today average MANPADS can reach a target from a distance of 3 miles, which means commercial aircraft are most vulnerable during periods of takeoff and landing.

Although MANPADS production was originally limited to a few states, including the U.S., U.K., Russia and China, today over 30 countries manufacture MANPADS. Major MANPADS producing states today include China, France, Russia, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. The most commonly produced MANPADS are the Soviet SA-7 and the U.S. Stinger.

MANPADS Proliferation

Although the vast majority of MANPADS are in national stockpiles, terrorists and other non-state actors have acquired the anti-aircraft missiles through deliberate transfers, the black market, or theft. All told, the Department of State estimates that as many as several thousand MANPADS exist outside state control, including in the hands of al Qaeda. Exacerbating the proliferation concern is the very long shelf-life of MANPADS, which can remain functional for up to twenty years.

The U.S. supply of Stingers to anti-Soviet Afghan fighters during the 1980s illustrates how MANPADS spread. Between 1986 and 1989, Afghan forces used the missiles to down an estimated 269 aircraft and helicopters. Many Stingers, however, remained unaccounted for after the conflict despite U.S. efforts to have unused missiles returned to U.S. control. Some of the missiles made it into the international black market and the hands of terrorists. Estimates of black market prices for MANPADS range from just a few hundred dollars for basic technology models to thousands for more advanced units.

The problem is not confined to U.S.-origin missiles. The Soviet Union supplied its allies with MANPADS and apparently some were re-transferred to non-state actors or stolen. Libya reportedly shipped Soviet-supplied MANPADS to at least the Irish Republican Army and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Numerous reports claim significant MANPADS looting from insecure military stores of the Soviet Union after its 1991 collapse. Similarly, after U.S.-led military forces in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein and his regime from power, as many as 4,000 MANPADS went missing from Iraqi military holdings.

MANPADs were discovered in use in recent conflicts in Libya, the Gaza Strip, and Syria. Iran has been accused of smuggling weapons, including MANPADS, into other countries in the region to armed insurgents. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commented to the Wall Street Journal, “There is no question when you start passing MANPADS around, that becomes a threat, not just to military aircraft but to civilian aircraft. That is an escalation.”

After the Libyan civil war, many feared that weapons from the Gaddafi regime may have been smuggled out of the country during the conflict to other countries in the region and into the hands of armed groups or terrorist units, like al Qaeda in the Magrheb, Hamas in Gaza, Boko Haram in Niger, or Syrian insurgents. At the end of the war 5,000 MANPADS left from the Gaddafi regime were located and destroyed by a multinational team, though some reports suggest that the regime was in possession of over 20,000, most of which remain unaccounted for.

During the November 2012 skirmish between Israel and the Gaza Strip Hamas released a video displaying its possession of MANPADS. A cable by Israeli Defense Intelligence also claimed Hamas possessed SA-7 MANPADS. These were likely smuggled into Gaza from Libya after the end of the civil war. It also suspected the smuggled Libyan MANPADS were transported into Mali and used by insurgents in that country.

In the Syrian civil war, video and photographic evidence proved rebel opposition forces possessed SA-16 and SA-7 MANPADs for targeting the aircraft of al-Assad’s government forces. Rebels acquired at least 40 MANPADS through captured government military stockpiles and international smuggling, including from Qatar, in their efforts to drive out the regime.

The Threat to Civil Aviation

The first successful MANPADS attack against a civilian aircraft occurred Sept. 3, 1978, when rebels of the Zimbabwe Peoples Revolution Army shot down Air Rhodesia Flight 825. The MANPADS attack with arguably the most severe consequences was the 1994 downing of a plane carrying the leaders ofRwanda and Burundi. That attack helped precipitate a war that killed more than 800,000 Rwandans; conflict in the region continues. More recently, in 2002, al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists in Mombassa, Kenya, fired two MANPADS at an Arkia Israel Airlines plane. Both missiles missed, but the act marked the first attack on a civilian airliner outside a conflict zone.

More than 50 MANPADS attacks against civilian aircraft have occurred, mostly in Africa and Asia. Aircraft are most vulnerable after take-off, during the initial climbing period, and while gaining altitude when the planes are at slow speeds and in regular flight patterns.  Some thirty attacks have been fatal and have resulted in almost 1,000 civilian deaths.  Most attacks against civilian plans occurred within active war zones.  Since 1998, an estimated 47 non-state groups are thought to be in control of MANPADS systems. While there has never been a MANPADS attack on a U.S. civilian plane, the estimated consequences of terrorists shooting down a U.S. airliner are severe. A 2005 RAND Corporation study projected that the direct costs of such an attack would approach $1 billion. The indirect economic costs, according to the study, would soar much higher. For example, if all U.S. airports stopped operating for one week after the attack, losses could climb past $3 billion. Depressed demand to fly in the following months could result in losses totaling up to $12 billion. In sum, RAND concluded that one anti-aircraft missile purchased for as little as a few thousand dollars on the black market could kill hundreds of people and cause economic damage exceeding $16 billion. The costs could be even higher if consumers shunned flying or airports remained closed for a long period.

Efforts to Reduce the MANPADS Threat

The U.S. government is pursuing three main strategies to prevent MANPADS proliferation and protect civilian aircraft: stiffening global export controls and transparency, funding MANPADS stockpile security and destruction worldwide, and researching defensive countermeasures.

Although the United States had been promoting new MANPADS security and export controls since 1998, the 2002 Mombassa attack galvanized U.S. efforts. In 2003, governments added MANPADS exports and imports to the list of weapons transactions that should be volunteered annually by states to the UN Register of Conventional Arms. That same year, the voluntary Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), a group of arms suppliers that seeks to coordinate their export controls, agreed to strengthen export procedures governing MANPADS transfers and urged governments to equip newly-manufactured systems with safety devices to prevent unauthorized use. Today the WA includes 41 participating states. Other international institutions, such as the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, have also focused more attention on strengthening MANPADS controls and stockpile security. A number of OCSE country plans have included destruction of MANPADS stockpiles as a priority.

Some countries exercise poor accounting and security of their MANPADS, making them vulnerable to theft. Aiming to mitigate this problem, the State Department’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and the Department of Defense’s Threat Reduction Agency operate programs to help foreign governments destroy excess weapons and improve protection of their missile stockpiles. The State Department claims these programs have destroyed approximately 32,500 MANPADS in over 30 countries since 2003, amounting to about 5-10% of the total world inventory.

The prospect of terrorists using MANPADS to attack U.S. airliners has led to some calls for equipping civilian airliners with defensive countermeasures, such as onboard lasers to confuse infra-red seeking missiles. Multiple versions of these counter-MANPADS technologies exist, such as the MANTA (acronym for MANPADS Threat Avoidance), a “multi-spectral multi-band high-energy laser-based system” that can counter several MANPADS attacks simultaneously, though the system is bulky and only suitable for certain types of planes. Other examples of active countermeasures include missile approach warning systems, flares, offset decoys, infrared countermeasure systems, and high-energy lasers.  The estimated cost of outfitting all U.S. airline planes with antimissile technologies would exceed $40 billion. This high cost is so prohibitive that the majority of civilian planes around the world do not have countermeasures and are thus vulnerable to attack. More behavioral safety precautions against MANPADS include improved pilot training on surviving a MANPADS hit on an aircraft, better airport security and improved stockpile safeguards.  While a MANPADS hit on an aircraft does not necessarily result in bringing down the plane, nearly 70% of recorded attacks on civilian planes caused crashes and fatalities.

New technologies are available to attempt to reduce the threat of MANPADS. These include infrared decoy flares that can confuse infrared seekers on the weapons. Directed Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCMs) cause the missile’s seeker to misread the location of the aircraft and miss its target. Missile warning systems (MWS) can alert an aircraft of an incoming missile. However, some studies have concluded that current available anti-MANPADS countermeasures would take years to install, cost upwards of $1-4 million per plane, and likely be ineffective against next-generation MANPADS given technological advancement. A solution that might be available in future MANPADS technology would be including GPS chips in the weapons that could be used to only allow activation of the weapon with a certain code or automatic disablement in the presence of U.S. or allied aircraft to prevent misuse of MANPADS in the wrong hands.

-Updated by Alexandra Schmitt

Conventional Arms Issues

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