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June 2, 2022
Conventional Arms Issues

The Ottawa Convention: Signatories and States-Parties

January 2018

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

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 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 on March 1, 1999. As of August 2022, 164 countries (including Palestine) had ratified or acceded to the treaty, and one country, the Marshall Islands, has signed the accord but has not ratified it. States-parties overwhelmingly come from Europe, Africa, 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, banning the production and acquisition of APLs and reserving their use for only on the Korean peninsula. In sharp contrast to President Obama’s landmine policy, the Trump administration allowed the production and deployment of APLs anywhere in the world in 2020, although there was no known new use or production during his presidency . Two years later, the Biden administration announced that it would be rolling back the Trump administration’s policy, essentially returning to the 2014 approach. The Biden administration’s policy aligned U.S. APL policy outside of the Korean peninsula “with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention – the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of APL.”

The United States is a party to the 1996 amended mines protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which restricts but does not ban APL use.


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



















Antigua & Barbuda







































Bosnia and Herzegovina









Brunei Darussalam






Burkina Faso















Cape Verde



Central African Republic


















Cook Islands



Costa Rica



Cote d'Ivoire









Czech Republic



Democratic Republic of Congo












Dominican Republic






El Salvador



Equatorial Guinea






















































Holy See




























































Macedonia, FYR





















Marshall Islands

































New Zealand






























Papua New Guinea



























St. Kitts & Nevis



St. Lucia



St. Vincent & the Grenadines






San Marino



Sao Tome & Principe






Serbia & Montenegro






Sierra Leone









Solomon Islands






South Africa



South Sudan






Sri Lanka



























Timor Leste






Trinidad & Tobago





















United Kingdom





















Updated by Sara Schmitt

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The Ottawa Convention at a Glance

January 2018

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


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 six countries per year.  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 under President Obama banned the production and acquisition of APLs as well as use of the weapons outside of the Korean Peninsula. 

 In sharp contrast to President Obama’s landmine policy, the Trump administration allowed the production and deployment of APLs anywhere in the world in 2020, although there was no known new use or production during his presidency. Two years later, the Biden administration announced that it would be rolling back the Trump administration’s policy, essentially returning to the 2014 approach. The Biden administration’s policy aligned U.S. APL policy outside of the Korean peninsula “with the key requirements of the Ottawa Convention – the international treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of APL.”

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, is 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, state parties have destroyed more than 50 million stockpiled landmines, with only five states, at most, still to complete destruction. For instance, Ukraine and Greece have missed their deadlines to complete destruction and still have not met their deadlines set by the Treaty as of 2021.

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 conferences 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.

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The Wassenaar Arrangement at a Glance

February 2022

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


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.


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

Cluster Munitions at a Glance

Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, (202) 463-8270 x10, Gabriela Iveliz Rosa Hernández, Research Associate, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

Cluster munitions, also called cluster bombs or CBUs, are gravity bombs, artillery shells, and rockets that fragment into small bomblets or grenades. According to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, “Cluster munition” means a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions each weighing less than 20 kilograms, and includes those explosive submunitions.

Read more about cluster munitions in our Resource Library.

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 2022, at least 23,082 cluster munition casualties have been confirmed globally. About 18,426 casualties resulted from unexploded submunitions and about 4,656 from cluster munition attacks. Estimated totals, however, are considered much higher, and according to the Monitor, “are likely a better indicator of the true numbers.” Estimates for the total global number of casualties range from 56,500 to 100,000. Almost all reported cluster munition casualties have been civilians, in large part because of the unwillingness of militaries to provide information.

At least 23 governments have used cluster munitions during armed conflict in 41 countries and five 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 75 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 Under-Secretary-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 in 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. 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 required 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 Feb. 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 (2MSP) on Sept.12–16, 2011. At the meeting, States Parties adopted the Beirut Progress Report, charting the implementation of the Vientiane Action Plan, which guides the work of the convention through to its First Review Conference in 2015. To date, there have been ten annual Meetings of States Parties, with the most recent held in September 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The convention stipulates Review Conferences are to occur every five years. The First Review Conference was held between Sept. 7-11, 2015 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, and the Second Review Conference was held in two parts in Geneva, Switzerland between Nov. 25-27, 2020 in a virtual format and Sept. 20-21, 2021 in hybrid format.


Status of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions

A total of 110 states-parties have ratified or acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to become full states-parties, and 13 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).

Since the convention entered into force, cluster munitions have been used in eight non-signatory states, including Azerbaijan in 2020; Cambodia in 2011; Libya in 2011, 2015, and 2019; South Sudan in 2014; Sudan in 2012–2015; Syria in 2012–2021; Ukraine in 2014–2015- and 2022; and Yemen in 2015–2017.

Russia has used cluster munitions extensively in Ukraine since its invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, and Ukraine has used cluster munitions at least three times during the war. It is estimated that as a result of cluster munitions, hundreds of civilians have died in Ukraine, and infrastructure including schools, hospitals, and homes has been destroyed. Russia and Ukraine have not joined the convention. (See ACT, October 2022).

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 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 Nov. 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 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 on Nov. 9, 2009, that the United States has determined that its “national security interests cannot be fully ensured consistent with the terms” of the CCM but that “the United States remains committed to negotiating a legally binding Protocol on Cluster Munitions in the CCW.”

The U.S. has never been a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and “maintains that cluster munitions have military utility, but has not used them since 2003 in Iraq, with the exception of a single attack in Yemen in 2009.” In 2017, the Department of Defense released a policy memorandum indicating the U.S., “will maintain sufficient inventories and a robust stockpile surveillance program to ensure operational quality and reliability of cluster munitions.”

Under President Joe Biden, U.S. transfers of cluster bombs are typically permissible if the bomblets dispersed by the weapons explode at least 99 percent of the time and purchasers consent to only use munitions in combat zones. The United States considers use of the munitions unlawful when “directed against civilians.”

Spurred by the use of landmines and cluster munitions in the Russian war on Ukraine, Democratic members of the U.S. Congress have called for changes in U.S. policy on such weapons. Policymakers have argued that condemnations of Moscow would be stronger if Washington would join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. As of July 2023, there have been no commitments by President Biden to change cluster munition policy. (See ACT, May 2022).

On July 7, AP confirmed that the Biden administration would send thousands of cluster munitions above a 1% unexploded ordnance to Ukraine.

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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]

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.


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.

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. 

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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]

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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The Arms Trade Treaty At a Glance

August 2017

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


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

August 2023

Contact: Daryl Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 x107

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. In the early 2000s, the US government estimated 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, frequently called heat seeking missiles, 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 which was fielded after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the U.S. Stinger. Today average MANPADS can reach a target from a distance of 3.2 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.

MANPADS Proliferation

Despite the global campaign to counter the illicit proliferation of MANPADS, the Small Arms Survey has identified reports of illicit MANPADS in over 32 countries and territories since 2011. These reports include the imagery of dozens of advanced systems acquired by non-state actors including Russian proxies in Ukraine prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion and ethnic armed groups in Myanmar. 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.

The U.S. supply of Stingers to anti-Soviet Afghan fighters during the 1980s is an example of how MANPADS can spread. Between 1986 and 1989, Afghan forces used 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 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 Soviet designed 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. 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 significant MANPADS and missile components , 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 among other MANPADS. It is also suspected the smuggled Libyan MANPADS were transported into Mali and acquired by insurgents in that country.

In May 2017, Reuters reported that Venezuela possesses around 5,000 Russian-made SA-24 MANPADS (also known as Igla-S), which is the largest known stockpile in Latin America. The late President Hugo Chavez obtained the weapons during his tenure from 1999 to 2013 from Russia.

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 brought down Air Rhodesia Flight 825. The MANPADS attack with arguably the most severe consequences was the 1994 downing of a plane carrying the leaders of Rwanda and Burundi.

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. Fifty-nine non-state armed groups are confirmed to possess or suspected to possess MANPADS according to a 2019 RAND Corporation study. 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.

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 the protection of their missile stockpiles. The State Department claims these programs “ have helped partner nations destroy nearly 41,000 excess, obsolete, or at-risk MANPADS and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, including over 28,000 in the OSCE region” as of April 2021. In her 2021 address at the OSCE, Karen Chandler, Director of the U.S. Interagency MANPADS Task Force, highlighted that since 1973, 65 incidents involving the use of MANPADS on civilian aircraft have killed over 1,000 civilians.

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, decoys, infrared countermeasure systems, and high-energy lasers. 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 although when a MANPADS hits an aircraft, it does not necessarily result in bringing down the plane.

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 which would make them useful when paired with a laser or flare system. 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 may be ineffective against next-generation MANPADS given technological advancement.

Conventional Arms Issues

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The Open Skies Treaty at a Glance

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

Signed March 24, 1992, the Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the others' entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities. Observation aircraft used to fly the missions must be equipped with sensors that enable the observing party to identify significant military equipment, such as artillery, fighter aircraft, and armored combat vehicles. Though satellites can provide the same, and even more detailed, information, not all of the treaty states-parties have such capabilities. The treaty is also aimed at building confidence and familiarity among states-parties through their participation in the overflights.

President Dwight Eisenhower first proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union allow aerial reconnaissance flights over each other's territory in July 1955. Claiming the initiative would be used for extensive spying, Moscow rejected Eisenhower's proposal. President George H.W. Bush revived the idea in May 1989, and negotiations between NATO and the Warsaw Pact started in February 1990.

Treaty Status: The Open Skies Treaty entered into force on January 1, 2002. The United States withdrew from the treaty in November 2020, and Russia withdrew in December 2021, which left 32 state-parties remaining in the accord.1

Twenty-six of the treaty’s initial 27 signatories have ratified the accord and are now states-parties. Since the treaty entered into force, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, and Sweden have become states-parties.

Territory: All of a state-party's territory can be overflown. No territory can be declared off-limits by the host nation.

Flight Quotas: Every state-party is obligated to accept a certain number of overflights each year, referred to as its passive quota, which is loosely determined by its geographic size.2 A state-party's active quota is the number of flights it may conduct over other states-parties. Each state-party has a right to conduct an equal number of flights over any other state-party that overflies it. A state-party's active quota cannot exceed its passive quota, and a single state-party cannot request more than half of another state-party's passive quota.

The treaty allows for multiple states-parties to take part in an overflight. The flight will count as an active flight for each state-party participating. Regardless of the number of observing states-parties, however, the overflight will only count as one passive overflight for the observed state-party.

Russia conducted the first observation flight under the treaty in August 2002, while the United States carried out its first official flight in December 2002. In 2008, states-parties celebrated the 500th overflight. Between 2002 and 2019, more than 1,500 flights have taken place.

Process: An observing state-party must provide at least 72 hours' advance notice before arriving in the host country to conduct an overflight. The host country has 24 hours to acknowledge the request and to inform the observing party if it may use its own observation plane or if it must use a plane supplied by the host. At least 24 hours before the start of the flight, the observing party will supply its flight plan, which the host has four hours to review. The host may only request changes in flight plans for flight safety or logistical reasons. If it does so, the two states-parties have a total of eight hours after submission of the original flight plan to agree on changes, if they fail, the flight can be cancelled. The observation mission must be completed within 96 hours of the observing party's arrival unless otherwise agreed.3

Although state-parties are allowed to overfly all of a member’s territory, the treaty determines specific points of entry and exit and refueling airfields. The treaty also establishes ground resolution thresholds for the onboard still and video cameras. The aircraft and its sensors must undergo a certification procedure before being allowed to be used for Open Skies in order to confirm that they do not exceed the allowed resolutions.

Aircraft: The treaty lays out standards for aircraft used for observation flights. Aircraft may be equipped with four types of sensors: optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. For the first three full years after the treaty entered into force, the observation aircraft had to be equipped with at least a single panoramic camera or a pair of optical framing cameras. The states-parties may now agree on outfitting the observation planes with additional sensors.

Data: A copy of all data collected will be supplied to the host country. All states-parties will receive a mission report and have the option of purchasing the data collected by the observing state-party.

Treaty Implementation: The Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), comprised of representatives of all states-parties, is responsible for the implementation of the Open Skies Treaty. The OSCC considers matters of treaty compliance, decides on treaty membership, distributes active quotas, and deals with any questions that may arise during the implementation of the treaty.

The 2nd Review Conference for the Open Skies Treaty was held in Vienna from June 7-9, 2010, under the chairmanship of the United States. The Conference’s Final Document paved the way for the use of digital cameras and sensors in the future by requesting states-parties consider the technological and financial aspects of converting to digital systems. The document also encouraged the expansion of the Open Skies Treaty to other countries, particularly those in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, where the OSCC is headquartered.

Images of Open Skies flights are available here.



1. Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The United States withdrew in November 2020, and Russia withdrew in December 2021. Kyrgyzstan has signed, but not ratified the treaty.

2. For example, Russia, which shares its quota with Belarus, and the United States both had quotas permitting 42 flights per year, while Portugal is only obligated to allow two flights annually. Countries are not required to exhaust their flight quotas. In 2009, the United States flew a total of thirteen flights, twelve over Russia and one over Ukraine.

3. This limit can be extended by 24 hours if the host insists that the observing party use the host's aircraft and demonstration flight is conducted.

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U.S. Conventional Arms Sales to Taiwan 1980-2010

October 2012

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

Updated: October 2012

Since the United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have been one of the most contentious issues in U.S.-China relations. Beijing wants control of the island and has not ruled out military action to achieve its goal, threatening to use force if Taiwan indefinitely refuses negotiations on reunification, declares independence, or is occupied by another country. Washington has urged the two sides to settle Taiwan's future peacefully and warned that it would view efforts to coerce reunification with "grave concern."

The value of annual U.S. government arms sales agreements with Taiwan varies, ranging from a low of $10 million in fiscal year 2006 to a high of nearly $5.37 billion in fiscal year 1993. (See chart below.) The United States also authorizes private U.S. arms companies to conclude weapon deals with Taiwan. The value of reported arms deliveries through these commercial channels has varied between roughly $5 million and $364 million each year.

The United States justifies these sales under the Taiwan Relations Act, which declares that the United States "will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability." Passed by Congress in March 1979 after the United States changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, the act became law on April 10, 1979.

China, which claims Taiwan is the "most crucial and most sensitive issue" in its relations with the United States, maintains that U.S. arms sales to Taipei infringe on China's sovereignty because Washington acknowledges that Taiwan is part of China. Beijing also charges that sales contradict the U.S.-China joint communiqué issued August 17, 1982. That document stated that the United States

"Does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplied in recent years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China, and that it intends gradually to reduce its sale of arms to Taiwan, leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution."

China had demanded in October 1981 that the United States set a fixed date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, but Washington refused. A strong supporter of Taiwan, President Ronald Reagan made the August 1982 commitment because he wanted better relations with China as a counterweight to the Soviet Union and because his administration believed the level of arms supplied by the Carter administration in its last years set the bar relatively high for future U.S. transfers.

Reagan assured Taiwan that the communiqué did not spell out a date for cutting off U.S. arms supplies and that Washington would not consult with Beijing about what U.S. arms would be provided to Taipei. In addition, Reagan and subsequent U.S. presidents interpreted the U.S. pledge to gradually reduce sales as conditioned on the maintenance of a military balance between China and Taiwan. The United States also contends the 1982 communiqué is a political document that is not legally binding, whereas the Taiwan Relations Act is U.S. law.

U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan 1980- 2010 (values not adjusted for inflation):

Fiscal Year
U.S. Government
Arms Agreements
U.S. Government
Arms Deliveries
U.S. Commercial
Arms Deliveries
2010$1.25 billion$713 million



3.17 billion

646 millionunavailable
2008608 million618 million$364 million
200722 thousand777 million200 million
200610 million1.07 billion5 million
2005244 thousand1.39 billion20 million
2004591 million917 million34 million
2003445 million709 million9 million
71 million1.37 billion134 million
272 million1.15 billion29 million
134 million784 million15 million
546 million2.44 billion16 million
591 million1.42 billion173 million
354 million2.39 billion261 million
449 million820 million20 million
208 million1.33 billion28 million
361 million845 million262 million
5.37 billion815 million346 million
478 million710 million96 million
474 million549 million160 million
518 million452 million150 million
522 million387 million85 million
487 million497 million195 million
501 million357 million210 million
506 million249 million229 million
709 million336 million54 million
670 million292 million70 million
631 million387 million85 million
489 million386 million75 million
312 million373 million67 million
487 million210 million58 million
$21.21 billion$25.39 billion$3.41 billion

Specific Weaponry:

Prior to 2006, the United States voluntarily reported conventional arms transfers to Taiwan--including specific weapon types--to the United Nations.  However, in 2006 a United Nations group of governmental experts recommended that all future reports submitted to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms only include information on conventional arms transfers to United Nations' member states.  As a result, there is no new available data on the specific weaponry transferred to Taiwan since 2006.

Sources: Defense Security Cooperation Agency, China's February 2000 White Paper on Taiwan, Congressional Research Service

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