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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

CD Appoints 'Special Coordinator' on Landmines

On March 26, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) appointed—for the second year running—a "special...

March 1998

On March 26, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) appointed—for the second year running—a "special coordinator" for anti-personnel landmines (APLs). (See p. 21.)

The conference is expected to name the special coordinator when it renews its work on May 11. The work of the coordinator could include developing a mandate for establishing an ad hoc committee that would consider negotiations of an export/transfer ban on APLs, possibly by the end of the second conference session of 1998.

In a prepared statement for his March 26 address to the CD, U.S. Ambassador Robert Grey reiterated the administration's support for an export-transfer ban as well as for the creation of the ad hoc committee. He said the appointment of a special coordinator "would be a significant first step" toward progress on restrictions of APLs in the 1998 session, especially with regard to states that are the largest producers of landmines.

The special coordinator was also tasked with taking into account "developments outside the Conference," namely the Ottawa Convention, signed last December. The convention prohibits the production, stockpiling, transfer and use of APLs, and as of March 31 had 125 signatories and seven parties. The signatory status of CD members (35 of the 61 members have signed the Ottawa Treaty) and the degree to which the special coordinator incorporates the objectives of the treaty in CD deliberations will have a significant impact on whether an ad hoc committee is established.

Posted: March 1, 1998

CD Opens 1998 Session As Members Reiterate Competing Priorities

CD Opens 1998 Session As Members Reiterate Competing Priorities

By Wade Boese

The UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) convened its first session of 1998 on January 20 after a paralyzed conference in 1997 failed to establish even a single ad hoc committee to begin negotiations, the only time in the conference's 19-year history that had happened. Progress within the 61-member CD this year will depend on whether a compromise can be found between the competing priorities of a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament and a fissile material cutoff treaty, or whether the CD can bypass this central dispute and consider other agenda issues including a step-by-step ban on anti-personnel landmines.

The secretary-general of the CD, Vladimir Petrovsky, delivered an opening statement from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declaring that "nuclear disarmament must be pursued more vigorously, particularly by the nuclear weapon states." However, the new U.S. representative to the CD, Robert T. Grey (a counselor for political affairs of the U.S. mission to the UN, 1989-1994; and acting deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, 1981-1983) read a statement from President Clinton declaring that "no issues are more important" than a fissile material cutoff for weapons purposes and an anti-personnel landmine ban, indicating that the U.S. position remained unchanged from last year.

Members quickly approved an agenda on the plenary's first day, whereas last year an identical agenda could not be adopted until February 14. Although the 1998 agenda lists seven topics for possible negotiations—cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, prevention of nuclear war, prevention of an arms race in outer space, negative security assurances, new types of weapons of mass destruction, a comprehensive program of disarmament and transparency in armaments—the current president of the conference, Lars Norberg of Sweden, stated that "if there is a consensus in the conference to deal with any issues, they could be dealt with within this agenda." 

U.S. Supports Cutoff Regime

In addition to the United States, Russia, Australia, Austria and Belgium voiced their support for a cutoff regime as the next step toward nuclear disarmament following the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Supporters of a cutoff regime continue to argue that nuclear disarmament should be left to bilateral negotiations between the United States and Russia rather than multilateral negotiations within the CD, which according to Belgium's representative, Andre Mernier, would only halt progress through a multiplication of actors.

Conference members had once agreed to negotiate a cutoff regime under the "Shanon mandate" in March 1995. This mandate gained consensus because it blurred whether a cutoff regime would apply solely to future production, as advocated by most nuclear-weapon states, or include stockpiles, which some conference members (particularly Egypt and Pakistan) desired. Currently, some members insist that convening an ad hoc committee based on a similar mandate should be acceptable.

However, Egypt, Myanmar and Brazil proclaimed that they would continue to attach the highest priority to nuclear disarmament. Members of the "Group of 21" (G-21) non-aligned states insist that non-nuclear-weapon states should be involved in nuclear disarmament negotiations because the weapons pose as much a threat to their security as to nuclear-weapon states. Pakistan, a member of the G-21, has expressed concern to the UN First Committee during the 52nd UN General Assembly and last year's conference that most of the nuclear-weapon states have "reaffirmed and reinforced their reliance" on nuclear weapons and that some nuclear-weapon states have said that they "will retain nuclear weapons indefinitely." At this year's CD, Egyptian representative Mounir Zahran further criticized the slow pace at which disarmament negotiations have proceeded.

South Africa, seeking common ground between nuclear disarmament and a fissile material cutoff regime, submitted a proposal to form an ad hoc committee with a mandate to "deliberate upon practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons." The initiative, designed to be vague enough not to exclude either objective, attracted support from a number of states including Canada and Japan. However, because the conference requires consensus for action, it will be necessary to win over the rigid proponents of both a cutoff regime (the United States and Russia) and a time-bound framework (India), none of which have endorsed the South African proposal.

Alternative Issues

Annan's opening statement also exhorted the conference that "it must be you, finally, to rid the world of the scourge of anti-personnel landmines." Both Russia and the United States have announced support for a progressive landmine ban starting with a prohibition on exports to complement the recently signed Ottawa Treaty. But critics question the intent, asking how the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of landmines, can be complemented and contend that the CD's efforts will merely be redundant and detract from other issues. Of the 123 signatories to the Ottawa Treaty, 35 are conference members.

Convening ad hoc committees on negative security assurances and the prevention of an arms race in outer space generated interest last year and received some early support from Russia this year. Canadian representative Mark Moher also called for preventing the militarization of outer space, noting that more than 30 countries are involved in space related activities. If ad hoc committees cannot be formed on these issues, special coordinators may be appointed as an alternative.

The conference is still deciding whether to reappoint last year's special coordinators on landmines, the CD's agenda, CD expansion and CD effectiveness. Conference President Norberg is conducting informal consultations with members to assess what issues hold the most promise for work during the first session, which concludes on March 27, and the later sessions scheduled from May 11 to June 26 and July 27 to September 9.

Posted: January 1, 1998

Multilateral Arms Control: Can the CD Break the Impasse?

The end of the Cold War shifted a log jam in both bilateral U.S.-Soviet and multilateral arms control efforts, and generated a number of opportunities allowing for significant gains in nuclear weapon and conventional arms control. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, all Soviet nuclear weapons were removed from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and all three former Soviet republics joined the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-nuclear-weapon states. Ukraine's accession to the NPT cleared the way for the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) to enter into force and for ratification of the START II agreement, which the United States has done.

In addition to the strategic nuclear reductions under START, the United States, Britain and France have withdrawn substantial numbers of tactical nuclear weapons and cancelled future programs. In 1995, NPT parties agreed to the indefinite extension of the treaty and to a more exacting structure for its review and implementation. In 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force, and the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty was overwhelmingly approved by the UN General Assembly and signed by the five nuclear-weapon states. During 1997 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted more effective safeguards and inspections procedures, and negotiations continued on strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibiting biological weapons. In early December, more than 120 countries signed the Ottawa Treaty, pledging to eliminate anti-personnel landmines from their arsenals and foreswear production, use and transfer. All good news, but that is where it appears to stop. The prospects for further significant progress on arms control and disarmament, particularly through the multilateral Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, are certainly not encouraging.

Ratification of START II and the CWC did not come easily in the United States. The price exacted by some senators may have fatally weakened the U.S. commitment and ability to initiate or carry through more far-reaching arms control initiatives. Though Russia managed to ratify the CWC only after it entered into force in April 1997, the Duma has still failed to move on START II, despite the March 1997 Helsinki summit agreements which identified targets for START III, to be negotiated as soon as START II is ratified. The major reasons for Duma reluctance cited by Russian officials are concerns over NATO expansion, U.S. programs for theater and national ballistic missile defenses, and lack of money and facilities for the safe destruction of old weapons and the maintenance of current arsenals. Russia has called for removal of the remaining U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, some 150 gravity bombs kept on U.S. bases in seven NATO countries.

The 61-member CD, the primary multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations established under UN auspices, has done little but talk around in circles since it ended its negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban (CTB) Treaty in August 1996. Several different issues have been proposed for negotiations at the CD, including a ban on the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes, nuclear disarmament and a ban on anti-personnel landmines. In addition, there are regular demands from different groups of countries for the CD to address the question of the militarization of space, transparency in armaments and legally binding security guarantees from the nuclear-weapon states to the non-nuclear-weapon states (so-called negative security assurances). The CD works by consensus, whereby any member can block action, and for each of the significant proposals put forward there are opponents. Some proposals are opposed outright, with members arguing that the CD is not the appropriate forum, or the time is not right, or the issue is not relevant. Others link their support for negotiations on one issue with commitments that the CD will work on specified others as well. As a result, the CD was not able to agree to any program of work at all throughout 1997.

Somewhat parallel to the work of the CD, the UN First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, debated and adopted 45 draft resolutions and decisions in November 1997 on a wide range of arms control and disarmament issues. Endorsed by the 52nd UN General Assembly in December, this annual consideration of First Committee recommendations reveals current priorities of and alliances among UN member-states, which can be useful indicators for forecasting future progress.<1> Judging from the debates and voting patterns at the United Nations, it will be difficult to resolve the impasse in the CD in the coming year.

 

Fissile Material Cutoff

Despite having agreed on a mandate in March 1995 to negotiate a fissile material production cutoff for weapons purposes, the CD has failed to start the process. India, which opposed the CD's finalized test ban treaty in 1996, refuses to let the negotiations commence without a binding commitment by the nuclear-weapon states that they will negotiate on nuclear disarmament in a time-bound framework. Other non-aligned countries in the CD are also pushing hard to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, although they are not as inflexible as India and would likely accept a non-negotiating mandate to begin with.

For a small but influential group of countries, led by Pakistan and Egypt, which are concerned about India and Israel, the real problem lies in the existing fissile material stockpiles. They insist that the regime should not be limited to halting future production of fissile materials but should also address the plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) already in the military stockpiles, something which the nuclear-weapon states have so far refused to consider. Adding to the difficulties, there are several different interpretations of the 1995 agreement, known as the "Shannon mandate," named after Canada's ambassador to the CD, Gerald Shannon, who managed to blur the issue of stockpiles sufficiently to get consensus on a negotiating mandate. Although the mandate is based on the December 1993 General Assembly resolution that seeks to ban future production, Shannon's consensus language "does not preclude any delegation from raising for consideration" issues related to existing stockpiles.

According to the nuclear-weapon states, that mandate limits negotiations to a ban on future production. Western delegations tend to take a flexible line, claiming, in the words of Hungary's CD ambassador, that the Shannon mandate "accommodates the different shades of opinion."<2> However, many privately agreed with Austria's representative that negotiations "would inevitably have to touch upon the question of [existing] stockpiles, even if they would remain outside of the treaty, because it is hard to see how [a] cutoff could be verified without transparency with regard to existing stockpiles."<3>

For the third consecutive year, there was not enough support for sponsors of a cutoff treaty to table a resolution at the United Nations. Advocates feared that a split vote at the United Nations would undermine the consensus achieved in December 1993, which had resulted in the March 1995 CD negotiating mandate. At the root of the arguments blocking the cutoff is a fundamental difference of perspective over the relationship between non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The majority of countries in the Group of 21 (G-21) non-aligned states agreed with the Indonesian CD ambassador that "brushing aside the issue of stockpiles, would, once again, render the cutoff treaty a mere non-proliferation measure...[with] no added value to date."<4>

The United States publicly disagreed, arguing that a cutoff treaty would reinforce parallel efforts to dismantle nuclear warheads, place fissile materials deemed to be "excess to national security requirements" under safeguards, and achieve "even deeper nuclear weapons reductions leading toward their eventual elimination."<5> In May, the director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), John Holum, told the CD that the cutoff treaty "should be simple and straightforward...[and] accomplished relatively quickly." He argued that without fissile material production, "arsenals can neither be established nor expanded" and portrayed the measure as "a constraint specifically on the nuclear-weapon states," instituting a "universal bound on how much fissile material can ever be devoted to nuclear weapons."<6> Holum's deputy, Ralph Earle II, reinforced this message in July, arguing that a cutoff treaty would apply "without discrimination" to all parties.<7>

This is not the view of India and Pakistan, which insist that a treaty that bans future production but does not address the large military stockpiles already in existence would freeze the status quo, thereby discriminating in favor of those countries that already have sizeable stockpiles. Confirming Pakistan's willingness to commence work on a cutoff treaty, Foreign Minister Muhammad Siddique Khan Kanju told the First Committee that the regime must address the "problems created by unequal stockpiles of fissile materials." India, which began by sharing the view of the nuclear-weapon states that the cutoff should only cover future production, has sought to counteract the regime's perceived discriminatory approach from a different angle. Rather than pushing for consideration of existingstockpiles, where India is at a significant advantage vis-à-vis Pakistan, New Delhi's representatives at the CD now argue that negotiations on banning fissile materials production should only go ahead if "part and parcel" of concurrent negotiations on time-bound nuclear disarmament.<8> India told the First Committee that "through the indefinite extension of [the] NPT, the nuclear-weapon states have perpetuated their retention of nuclear weapons and having achieved this, become more insistent on 'stand alone' treaties rather than a comprehensive approach." In New Delhi's view, "mere non-proliferation treaties have been promoted as disarmament measures to serve this nuclear monopoly and perpetuate inequality."<9>

 

Nuclear Disarmament

Following action by the First Committee, the General Assembly voted for several different resolutions on nuclear arms control and disarmament. On bilateral arms control issues, there was only one resolution (A/52/38M) rather than the two rivals of past years. Sponsored by the United States, Russia, France and Britain and supported by 161 countries including China (with eight abstentions), the resolution endorsed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the START process and U.S.-Russian progress on nuclear arms control, including the September 26 agreements relating to START II, the ABM Treaty and early deactivations of some START II-limited weapons. It also urged the two powers to "commence negotiations on a START III agreement immediately after START II enters into force" on the basis of the Helsinki understandings. Eight countries, including Cuba, India, Iran and North Korea abstained.

There were three other contrasting resolutions on nuclear disarmament: from Japan, calling for implementation of the NPT; from Malaysia, calling for negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention; and from Myanmar, calling for the CD to convene a committee to negotiate a phased program of nuclear disarmament in a time-bound framework. All the resolutions were adopted by a large majority, but what really matters is which countries co-sponsored and which opposed, the balance of power and the level of cross-group support. None of the nuclear disarmament resolutions achieved consensus.

Japan's resolution (A/52/38K), widely viewed as the most moderate, was supported by all five nuclear powers for the first time, but suffered an unexpected challenge from Pakistan. The resolution emphasized the importance of NPT commitments, underlined the measures identified in the 1995 program of action adopted at the time of the treaty's indefinite extension, and called for the "determined pursuit by the nuclear-weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons...." The resolution emphasized the responsibility of all states in relation to disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and called for the United Nations to be kept informed of the progress and efforts made. Pakistan objected that instead of addressing nuclear disarmament, Japan's approach actually focused on non-proliferation and the NPT, and was "an alibi" for the continued policies of the nuclear powers.<10> In addition to proposing amendments backing a time-table for the elimination of nuclear weapons, Pakistan wanted to emphasize Article VI of the NPT, which commits all states-parties, among other things, "to pursue negotiations in good faith" on nuclear disarmament measures. Japan refused to amend the resolution, which was eventually passed by 156 votes, with 10 abstentions (including India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan).

A new resolution introduced by Malaysia (A/52/38O) seeks to implement the July 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), or World Court. (See ACT, July 1996.) Although only in its second year, the ICJ resolution is likely to prove one of the most important gauges to watch in the future. Although the starting point for the resolution is the unanimous opinion of the ICJ judges that there exists an obligation (under customary international law) for states to "pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament," the major thrust of the measure is its call for negotiations leading to "an early conclusion of a nuclear weapon convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination."

In the General Assembly, 152 countries approved the portion of the resolution containing the legal ruling, with only the United States, Russia, France, Israel and Monaco voting against, while Britain joined five others in abstaining. The whole resolution, including the call for a nuclear weapons convention, was backed by 116 countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Ukraine and Western allies such as Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden. The other four declared nuclear powers and Israel, however, were among the 26 mainly NATO counties which voted against the measure. Several members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) joined Japan, South Korea and Scandinavian countries in abstaining on the resolution. The voting patterns suggest that if this becomes a yearly resolution, it could be an effective vehicle for uniting Western and developing states and building momentum for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, as chemical and biological arms have been banned. However, this will take time.

The least successful of the resolutions on nuclear disarmament—Myanmar's call for a time-bound framework to eliminate nuclear weapons (A/52/38L)—obtained only 109 votes in favor, with 39 against and 18 abstentions. Some non-aligned countries abstained on the grounds that a rigid time-table would be impractical and could hinder actual progress.

 

Test Ban Issues

Myanmar's resolution also called for an immediate halt to the "qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems." During the CD and UN debates, a number of countries expressed serious concerns about sub-critical tests (which do not result in the release of any fission energy) and other aspects of stockpile management programs in the nuclear-weapon states that could lead to modernization. India, which has refused to sign the CTB Treaty, claimed that its apprehensions about the treaty were coming true, citing loopholes and the continuation of nuclear weapon-related activities using non-explosive techniques, through which "new types of weapons are being designed."<11> By the terms of the treaty's entry-into-force provisions, the test ban cannot take legal effect without accession by 44 named countries, including India. There had been some hope that after the furor had died down over the United Nations' adoption of the CTB Treaty over India's veto in the CD, New Delhi would be persuaded to sign. But India's attitude toward the test ban treaty has continued to harden. Refusing to allow consensus on any resolution which mentioned the treaty, India even abstained on a procedural decision to include the treaty on next year's UN agenda.

India, however, is not the only country to raise concerns about a new "technology race" to modernize nuclear arsenals. At the First Committee, sub-critical testing of weapons was condemned by several delegations from among the 44 states named in the CTB Treaty, including Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan. Pakistan, which has refused to sign without India, castigated the "euphemistic cover of 'stockpile stewardship,'" saying that such programs "will erode the prospects for the entry into force of the CTBT."<12>

 

Anti-Personnel Landmines

In addition to wanting the CD to work on a fissile material cutoff treaty, the United States has been pushing even harder for it to address landmines. Despite the wide international support for the Ottawa Treaty, the U.S. government for the past year has been urging the CD to engage in complementary negotiations leading to a phased elimination of anti-personnel mines, starting with restrictions on exports and transfers. Russia and China, which, like the United States, have refused to sign the Ottawa accord, say they prefer the CD, but stress that negotiations would need to meet all their security concerns, sending unmistakable signals that any negotiations would be drawn out and complicated.

The problems of widely differing approaches and security considerations were illustrated by the three landmines resolutions adopted by the General Assembly: Canada's resolution (A/52/38A) supported the Ottawa process; Sweden's resolution (A/52/42) backed the process under- way to strengthen the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW); and Australia's measure (A/52/38H) pushed for the CD to work on landmines. Of these, only the CCW resolution gained consensus (adopted without a vote), because it avoided controversy by not mentioning the attempts to address landmines comprehensively. The Ottawa resolution, demanding a total ban on production, stockpiling, transfer and, most importantly, the use of anti-personnel landmines, surprised many observers by achieving 142 votes in favor, with only 18 abstentions. This high vote was partly because the treaty has been completed and is now a fact of life, but the abstentions included some key countries including the United States, Russia and China. The Australian landmine resolution was approved by 147 states (including the United States, Russia and China) with 15 abstentions.

This tally, however, concealed some contradictions which do not augur well for those who want negotiations on landmines to take place in the CD in 1998. Some countries supported Australia's resolution as a counterweight to the Ottawa Treaty, but neither expect, nor in some cases desire, the CD to negotiate an effective instrument. The United States, in particular, needed this resolution in order to tell the U.S. public, which backs a total ban, that it is trying to get a more comprehensive ban negotiated in the CD. The landmines issue cuts across group allegiances in the CD that were traditionally drawn on nuclear and Cold War lines. Among non-aligned countries, there are supporters of using the CD to address landmines as a way of deflecting pressure to sign the Ottawa Treaty, but there is also quite strong opposition to putting landmines on the CD agenda, in case it takes precedence over nuclear disarmament issues. Other delegations (comprising both Ottawa Treaty signatories and hold-outs), which for political reasons supported this resolution, do not think the CD is capable of making progress on landmines in the near future. Many see the resolution as little more than a face-saver for the United States, with minimal hope of being implemented.

 

Transparency in Armaments

There were two resolutions on transparency in armaments. The traditional resolution, backing the implementation and further development of the UN Register of Conventional Arms (A/52/38R), achieved 155 votes (including all five permanent members of the UN Security Council), with 11 abstentions. There was opposition, however, in the form of abstentions from China and several non-aligned members of the CD, to paragraphs calling for a group of governmental experts to be convened in 2000 and for the CD to continue work on the issue. On this basis, it will take some hard bargaining for there to be any chance for the CD to convene an ad hoc committee on transparency in armaments in 1998.

This year Egypt put in a rival resolution on transparency (A/52/38B), which focused on weapons of mass destruction, arguing that inventories and information should be provided on holdings of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, as well as conventional arms. Declarations of biological and chemical stockpiles and facilities are part of the BWC and CWC, respectively, so the primary aim of this resolution is to have nuclear arms included. There is already a growing level of transparency in the post-Cold War era. The United States and Russia have bilateral arrangements for information exchanges; France went public last year with information on its nuclear arsenal; and Britain's new foreign secretary, Robin Cook, is on the record from 1995 as an advocate of a nuclear arms register.

Nevertheless, Egypt's resolution was opposed by NATO states (including the United States), Russia and Australia. Some said they supported the principle of transparency, but feared that the UN register would be weakened if it were now made to deal with all weapons. Supporters of a nuclear arms register have pointed out that the concept does not require the UN register itself to include weapons of mass destruction. They suggest that if transparency procedures on nuclear arms were set up under other auspices, they would not interfere with the UN register, but would instead enhance its credibility. Stigmatizing the UN register for being selective and discriminatory has been a favorite excuse from countries that do not wish to participate in greater transparency.

 

Security Assurances

Pakistan obtained 116 votes for its resolution calling for the CD to "actively continue intensive negotiations" on guarantees to non-nuclear-weapon states that nuclear weapons will not be threatened or used against them (A/52/36). Among the 51 countries which abstained were the NATO states (including the United States, Britain and France), Russia and South Africa. The purpose of such a resolution is to harmonize and extend the security assurances given individually by the five declared nuclear-weapon states into a legally binding treaty. Many Western delegations question the necessity for this, while others states such as South Africa consider that the NPT is a more appropriate forum for addressing security assurances, regarding them as a benefit for adherents of the non-proliferation regime. At the April 1997 Preparatory Committee meeting of NPT parties, South Africa pushed hard for time to be allocated in 1998 for the NPT review process to consider security assurances more specifically.

India's traditional resolution calling for a treaty prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons (A/52/39C) received 109 votes in favor, with 30 against (mostly NATO countries, including the United States, Britain and France) and 27 abstentions (including Russia). It is no accident that India and Pakistan, which remain outside the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, sponsor these resolutions that seek to bypass the conditions imposed on assurances granted in the context of nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties and the NPT.

 

Outer Space

For years the item on preventing an arms race in outer space seemed to be a hangover from the Cold War. With new developments in laser technology and the U.S.-driven pressure to weaken the ABM Treaty, the militarization of space has garnered renewed interest and concern. This year's resolution (A/52/37), which called for the CD to re-examine and update the mandate for establishing an ad hoc committee, was backed by 128 countries. The support cut across all groups, and included non-aligned states, China, Russia, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand (the United States, Britain and France were among the 39 abstentions).

 

The Conference on Disarmament

There are two ways of regarding the ongoing tribulations of the CD. The conference may be viewed as "resting between jobs," recovering from the exertions of achieving two major treaties (the CWC and the test ban) in six years, and therefore, like a fallow field, preparing for when the right seeds are sown. Alternatively, the CD may be suffering from terminal decline, turning into an outdated forum with unwieldy structures and too many competing national interests and egos to be able to function effectively in its present form. The consensus resolution on the CD approved by the General Assembly (A/52/40A) emphasized the conference's importance as the "single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community." But the CD has been dented from two sides: its failure to corral India into the CTB Treaty and the success of the Ottawa process in achieving a treaty banning landmines through negotiations—outside the CD—among like-minded states.

India's veto of the CTB Treaty at the CD and its continuing refusal to sign the accord undermines the argument that through the process of multilateral negotiations among the relevant states, reluctant governments can be brought on board. This argument underpins both the view of the nuclear-weapon states with regard to a fissile material cutoff treaty and the U.S. position that CD negotiations on landmines will bring in the big producers such as China and Russia, which have rejected the Ottawa Treaty. The Ottawa process showed how in just one year, with public pressure and political will, a treaty could be negotiated, concluded and signed by over 120 states, while the CD simply talked about "approaches" and "phases."

The CD is caught between two cultures. Despite having for years had a deliberative function on a number of issues, some of which eventually came to fruition as treaties, this role is now regarded by some as unacceptable. Emphasizing the negotiating function of the CD, the non-aligned countries have called for it to negotiate a time-table for nuclear disarmament and/or legally binding treaties on security assurances and non-use of nuclear weapons. ACDA Director John Holum, rejecting a role for the CD in nuclear disarmament, likewise characterized the CD as "the body where arms control negotiations, not merely discussions are conducted," and where "the world's substantive expertise on arms control" resides.<13> Some countries have been trying without success to broker a compromise, whereby the CD would complement negotiations on a cutoff regime by convening a nuclear disarmament committee without an immediate negotiating mandate, perhaps to play a different kind of multilateral role such as encouraging, defining and preparing the technical and political ground for further steps—much as the Group of Scientific Experts did for the CTB Treaty.

Contradictions and hypocrisies riddle the insistence by the extremes (represented by the United States and India) that the only legitimate role for the CD is multilateral negotiations. India wants nuclear disarmament negotiations but walked away from the test ban treaty, in which it was a full negotiating participant, and refuses to join the NPT. The nuclear*weapon states insist that a cutoff treaty must be negotiated nowhere but the CD, because that is the only way to ensure the inclusion of India, Israel and Pakistan. Moments after insisting that the CD must negotiate a landmines ban, Holum said "the real obstacle to nuclear disarmament negotiations [in the CD] is not the willingness of the parties, but the capacity of the forum." Yet, instead of seeking ways to make the successfully concluded Ottawa Treaty universal, the United States seeks to put the issue onto the CD agenda.

The conference should neither be overloaded nor written off. Trying to have it both ways risks destroying the CD's real, but limited, potential.

 

Hard Choices

It is very unlikely that the CD will negotiate on landmines or nuclear disarmament in the near term, and the prospects for a cutoff treaty hang in the balance. If enough CD members want to avoid the ignominy and risks of another year without a program of work, there is some chance that committees or coordinators may be established on issues such as prevention of an arms race in outer space, transparency in armaments and security assurances. While structured discussion of these issues may be useful, alternative ways of addressing the larger arms control issues will have to be found.

As the Ottawa Treaty seeks to establish an international legal norm against the production and use of anti-personnel landmines, its supporters should consider ways of addressing the regional and national security concerns of hold-out states, with a view to enabling more states to join. Rather than seeking to set up a full set of parallel negotiations at the CD, which might undermine Ottawa, the international community would be better advised to bridge the gap between the CCW and the Ottawa Treaty, perhaps starting with a ban on exports negotiated as an additional protocol to the CCW.

Nuclear disarmament presents a different set of problems. The CTB Treaty may well be the last nuclear arms control treaty on the multilateral agenda for many years. In the long term, the demand for a nuclear weapons convention will gather momentum. In the interim, however, any progress on nuclear arms control will most likely take place by means of bilateral (the United States and Russia) and five-power (the declared nuclear-weapon states) negotiating tracks. That does not mean that the international community has no role to play. On the contrary, left to their own national considerations, the United States and Russia are slow movers, unlikely to go beyond the START process. Even if START III is achieved, the two sides could retain more than 4,000 deployed strategic weapons and possibly as many as 20,000 to 30,000 more weapons in their inactive stockpiles. Nor are China, France and Britain likely to engage in nuclear arms reduction talks while the United States and Russian arsenals remain so large.

In view of the growing importance of engaging China and the current political constraints on the CD, five-power talks between the declared nuclear-weapon states, coupled with greater emphasis on regional confidence building in the Middle East and South Asia, offer the best hope of reducing nuclear threats and making progress on nuclear disarmament in the coming years. Five-power talks could contribute to enhanced safety and security, and the progressive marginalization of nuclear weapons by addressing a range of "qualitative" issues, including alert levels, no first use, transparency, accounting of fissile materials and weapons holdings, and commitments not to modernize or increase existing arsenals. If the non-nuclear-weapon "middle powers" on all the major continents can develop the political will, alliances and strategies, they could help to establish the agenda and pace of qualitative nuclear disarmament negotiations among the five weapon states, which, in turn, would reinforce and enhance the START process and other bilateral initiatives.

If they are willing to work out an effective role and the appropriate mechanisms, the states involved in the NPT review process and the CD could ensure that both these fora play a useful role in setting the agenda for five-power talks, sustaining the pressure, assisting with verification research and implementation, and monitoring progress. Such efforts would do much to reinforce the wider credibility of the multilateral non-proliferation regime. If these efforts are not forthcoming, and especially if CD members were to regard five-power talks as treading on multilateral toes, the alternative is continued impasse, the discrediting of multilateralism and perhaps a reversal of the progress achieved in the last decade.

 


NOTES

1. Fifty-eight of the CD's 61 members voted in the 52nd UN General Assembly. The voting rights of Iraq and Yugoslavia have been suspended; Switzerland, a member of the CD, is not a member of the United Nations. [Back]

2. Peter Naray, Hungarian ambassador to the CD, Geneva, February 20, 1997, CD/PV.756. [Back]

3. Harald Kreid, Austrian ambassador to the CD, Geneva, March 13, 1997, CD/PV.760. [Back]

4. Agus Tarmidzi, Indonesian ambassador to the CD, Geneva, February 20, 1997, CD/PV.756. [Back]

5. Ralph Earle II, deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), statement to the CD plenary, Geneva, July 31, 1997, CD/PV.771. [Back]

6. John Holum, ACDA director, statement to the CD plenary, Geneva, May 15, 1997, CD/PV.763. [Back]

7. Earle, op. cit. [Back]

8. Bharati Ray, member of Indian parliament, statement to the UN First Committee, New York, October 17, 1997. [Back]

9. Bharati, op. cit.[Back]

10. See Rebecca Johnson, First Committee Report, Disarmament Diplomacy, No. 20, November 1997. [Back]

11. Bharati, op. cit. [Back]

12. Muhammad Siddique Khan Kanju, Pakistan's minister of state for foreign affairs, statement to the UN First Committee, New York, October 17, 1997. [Back]

13. Holum, op. cit. [Back]

 


Rebecca Johnson is director of the Acronym Institute in London.

Posted: November 1, 1997

Deadlock Continues to Plague CD Through Final 1997 Session

THE DEEPLY DIVIDED UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) concluded its final session of 1997 on September 9, having failed to agree on a work program during the year and—for the first time in its 19 year history—to establish a single ad hoc negotiating committee. Although the CD's 61 members had approved an agenda early in 1997, they were unable throughout the year to narrow their differences over the priorities for the Geneva based forum.

The current impasse has resulted in a split between the "Group of 21" non aligned states, which considers nuclear disarmament the CD's top priority, and a number of Western countries generally aligned with the nuclear weapon states (minus China), which favor the early negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty and possibly an anti personnel landmine accord that complements the ongoing "Ottawa Process." Efforts by the non aligned states during the 1997 conference to establish an ad hoc committee to negotiate a time bound nuclear disarmament framework, which might include a fissile ban component, were repeatedly rejected. Compromise proposals by Japan and New Zealand to appoint a special coordinator or establish a nuclear disarmament committee failed to acheive consensus.

Although the stalemate over nuclear disarmament dominated much of the CD's time this year, the conference was also unable to agree on negotiating mandates for any of the six other arms control related items which appear annually on its agenda. These issues include prevention of nuclear war, prevention of an arms race in outer space, new types of weapons of mass destruction, comprehensive disarmament, negative security assurances and transparency in armaments.

Addressing the CD at the beginning of its third and final session, Ralph Earle, deputy director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, told the conference that a fissile ban would be "an important measure in the overall process of nuclear disarmament," and that without it "the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament would be decreased significantly." The U.S. delegation also made it clear that the United States would continue to favor bilateral negotiations with Russia as the most expeditious way to ensure continued progress in nuclear disarmament, at least for the foreseeable future.

On the final day of the session, the U.S. representative, Katharine Crittenberger, criticized the "all or nothing approach" that some delegations pursued during the 1997 conference and said there seemed to be a lack of desire and will to achieve substantive results. Days earlier, Munir Akram of Pakistan said some delegations' positions were so rigid that the CD was unable to carry out its responsibilities, and criticized the handful of states that had refused to allow the CD to begin negotiations on nuclear disarmament. However, a British diplomatic source familiar with the debate said the "onus is on the threshold states" of India, Israel and Pakistan.

 

Landmine Debate

Although anti personnel landmines were not formally included on the CD's 1997 agenda and the "Ottawa Process" overshadowed the talks in Geneva, there was some optimism during the final session that the conference would be able to address landmines in 1998. Ambassador John Campbell of Australia, the CD's special coordinator on landmines appointed during the second session, recommended that the conference postpone further discussions until after the Ottawa treaty is signed in December and the CD can determine how to best complement the Ottawa Process.

On September 9, Campbell told the conference a majority of states favor, or at least do not oppose, addressing the landmine issue when the conference opens its 1998 session in January. He also said the mandate with the greatest support is a step by step approach to eventual elimination that begins by addressing exports, imports and transfers.

During a September 26 ceremony at the United Nations marking the handover of the Ottawa text, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, "[The] treaty will serve not only as a complement but also as an inspiration for greater and swifter progress" in the CD's work toward a total ban. "Together, the two avenues can truly lead to a worldwide prohibition, including all countries affected by landmines," Annan said.

The CD's three other special coordinators, who were appointed in August to address the effective functioning of the conference, membership expansion and review of the CD agenda, all reported that divergent views of the delegations prevented them from making recommendations. The conference rejected a request to allow the coordinators to hold intercessional consultations before the 1998 conference convenes. The CD's sessions in 1998 are scheduled for January 19 to March 27, May 11 to June 26, and July 27 to September 9.

Posted: September 1, 1997

CD Ends Session Without Resolving Divide Over Agenda

 

Wade Boese

THE CONFERENCE on Disarmament (CD) concluded its second session of 1997 on June 27, with delegates still at odds over whether the body should pursue negotiations leading to a global ban on antipersonnel landmines, a fissile material cutoff treaty, or a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament. The CD's continuing inability to agree on a work program for 1997 has prevented it from establishing any ad hoc committees for conducting talks.

The conference appointed Australian Ambassador John Campbell as a special coordinator on landmines to "conduct consultations on the most appropriate arrangement to deal with the question of antipersonnel landmines" and present a report to the CD on his findings. Additionally, the conference appointed separate special coordinators to address each of three areas: the CD's agenda, the possible expansion of the CD and improving CD effectiveness.

On May 15, Hungary and Japan proposed forming an ad hoc committee with a mandate to negotiate a global ban on landmines, but the proposal stalled as the conference failed to reach a consensus, a requirement for any decision in the CD. China, Egypt, India, Mexico and Turkey opposed a complete ban because it would not take into account some states' "security concerns." Mexico also objected that forming an ad hoc committee on landmines would divert attention away from nuclear disarmament. Finally, some states were reluctant to address the landmine ban, fearing it would detract from or duplicate the work of the Canadian-led "Ottawa Process," which aims to achieve a global ban by the end of 1997. (See this month's feature article by Jim Wurst) The appointment of a special coordinator finally emerged as a compromise on the day before the session ended, when the Syrian delegate left the room to allow consensus.

Despite a consensus resolution by the UN General Assembly in 1993 calling for fissile material production cutoff talks, and the "Principles and Objectives" agreement at the 1995 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference to begin "immediate" negotiation, the CD has failed to begin negotiating a treaty because the Group of Non-Aligned States have linked a cutoff treaty with progress on negotiating nuclear disarmament in the CD.

John Holum, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, said on May 15 that negotiating nuclear disarmament in the CD would "set back disarmament." The United States sees bilateral U.S.-Russian negotiations as the sole forum for nuclear disarmament. A U.S. official said the CD should not become "paralyzed by an insistence to attempt tasks that are clearly beyond its capability," and that "the way to make progress in the CD is to work on topics that are suited to it," such as a cutoff treaty. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, in a June 5 address to the CD, also endorsed giving priority to a fissile material cutoff.

Yet, 26 of 29 members of the Group of NonAligned States proposed a mandate on June 12 to establish an ad hoc committee for nuclear disarmament after the group's work proposal proclaimed this as its "highest priority." The nonaligned states, led by India, insist that a cutoff regime should be encompassed within or be considered secondary to nuclear disarmament negotiations. Previously, in a May 31 statement, Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral said India would not sign any forthcoming cutoff treaty.

While the nuclear-weapon states support a ban on the future production of fissile materials, prospects for negotiating are further endangered by substantive disagreements over what such a treaty would entail. A majority of the non-nuclear-weapon states support including stockpiles or "past production."

The appointment of the special coordinators may be the only progress in the conference this year if the delegations cannot agree on a work program or resolve outstanding differences during the final session, scheduled for July 28 to September 10.

Posted: June 1, 1997

CD Ends First Session of 1997 Without Mandates for Negotiations

CD Ends First Session of 1997 Without Mandates for Negotiations

By Howard Diamond

The 61 nation UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva ended its first 1997 session on March 27 without achieving agreed mandates for negotiations or establishing the necessary bodies in which to conduct them.

Beginning its work on January 21, the world's principal multilateral arms control forum was unable to set an agenda beyond the eight basic items first promulgated in 1978, now considered a formality. Many countries hoped that the CD would keep up the momentum of last year's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and make rapid progress on a global fissile material cutoff treaty and on an anti personnel landmines ban. However, competing priorities of the Western nations on the one hand and the non aligned movement (NAM) states on the other compounded by the CD requirement to work only by consensus have prevented formation of any ad hoc committees in which negotiations could begin.

The United States and most other Western countries want the CD to focus on what they believe is a more pragmatic agenda, in particular, negotiating a fissile material production ban and a global landmine ban (see ACT, January/February 1996). The NAM, led by India, insists that the immediate aim of the CD should be establishing a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament which would include the fissile material ban.

According to one U.S. official familiar with the CD negotiations, "The countries blocking the fissile material cutoff treaty by linking it to a timebound framework are the same ones trying to protect their own [nuclear weapons] programs." The United States maintains that the CD is the wrong place to negotiate nuclear reductions, arguing that agreements such as START I and II, among nuclear weapon states, are the best way to make large reductions in nuclear arsenals.

Attempting to bridge the gap between supporters of immediate fissile ban negotiations (such as the United States, Russia, Britain and France) and the non aligned, which wants to subsume a fissile cutoff within a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament, Japan proposed establishing a special coordinator to identify the nuclear disarmament issues with the greatest potential for fruitful negotiations and to report back to the conference before the end of the final 1997 session. New Zealand suggested establishing a nuclear disarmament committee that would immediately begin with the fissile material cutoff negotiations, while also considering longer term issues. However, both sides are unwilling to make compromises that look like concessions, and these proposals received little support.

The CD will hold two more sessions in 1997, the first from May 12 to June 27 and the second from July 28 to September 10. A U.S. official suggested little progress was likely in the second session, but movement was possible in the third. According to the official, "There's a waiting game to see which side will crack." In the absence of a major breakthrough or change in position, the CD may accomplish little this year.

Posted: March 1, 1997

U.S. Favors CD Negotiations To Achieve Ban on Landmines


Sarah Walkling

AFTER MONTHS of indecision, the Clinton administration announced January 17 that it will initially pursue negotiations for a comprehensive global ban on anti personnel landmines at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, instead of through the Canadian led effort to negotiate and sign an international treaty by December 1997. (See ACT, October 1996.) The administration also declared that the current U.S. export moratorium on anti personnel mines, which was to continue until 1999, would become permanent.

By opting for the CD, the administration has chosen the slower path for implementing a ban. The CD, which opened its first session of 1997 on January 21, may not decide whether a landmine ban will be on its agenda until the summer of 1997 or later. Meanwhile, the Canadian led effort, also known as the "Ottawa Process," will begin reviewing an Austrian draft treaty text during a February 12 14 conference in Vienna. The United States is expected to attend the Vienna meeting.

The administration favors the 61 member CD because Russia and China—top producers of anti personnel landmines and opponents of a landmine ban—have said they will not participate in the Ottawa Process. Both countries are members of the CD. Without their participation, administration officials say, a treaty would not halt the use, production, export or stockpiling of anti personnel mines. However, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said January 17 the CD negotiations would be "mutually reinforcing" of the Canadian initiative. If China and Russia join the Canadian effort, the United States has said it will also participate. Regardless of the forum, the United States will seek an exception for its mines deployed on the Korean Peninsula.

Other states that favor negotiating a ban at the CD include Australia, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. On January 23, the French representative to the CD, Ambassador Joelle Bourgois, said, "France prefers an efficient treaty, even if the result took time, to a hastily concluded but useless agreement." Some members of the non aligned movement (NAM) that oppose conducting the negotiations at the CD say the landmine talks might overshadow the comprehensive nuclear disarmament negotiations which several NAM states hope to initiate. If the CD agenda does include a landmine ban, the ad hoc committee that would be established for negotiating a ban will likely focus on reaching agreement on an export ban first.

According to Bob Bell, National Security Council senior director for defense policy and arms control, "[O]ur best shot at this in terms of achieving the president's goal of a global ban—not just a ban among some countries but a ban that really touches the countries that are causing the problem on different continents around the world—is to take it to the CD where we have a proven track record." Acknowledging that achieving a ban "is going to be tough," Bell said, "we think we can get a landmines agreement out of the CD ..."

However, Senator Patrick Leahy (D VT), the leading congressional advocate for a global ban, expressed disappointment in the administration's decision. In a January 17 press release, Leahy said the Canadian initiative offers "the best opportunity" for rapid progress because it establishes "a moral and tactical imperative" for bringing holdout countries aboard. "It is doubtful that the CD will produce an agreement to achieve a ban," Leahy said. "The CD process requires step by step consensus that rewards holdout states, who effectively have a veto that retards or prevents strong agreements." Last year, India alone was able to block consensus on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the CD. The otherwise agreed treaty was taken directly to the UN General Assembly by Australia and was opened for signature in September 1996 despite Indian opposition.

 

Finding Alternatives

The day after the White House announced its decision to push for negotiation of a ban in the CD, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported on its efforts to end its military reliance on anti personnel landmines. Clinton ordered the assessment as part of a landmine initiative announced in May 1996. (See ACT, May/June 1996.) The Pentagon has since reviewed its war plans and has begun to revise its doctrine and training manuals to eliminate requirements for anti personnel landmine use. According to a DOD official, the changes represent "a fundamental shift in the way we go to war."

While the Defense Department has not found a single alternative to landmines, the official said, "[T]here appear to be a number of systems, when used in combination, which offer some very promising prospects for us." Specifically, a combination of "new killing mechanisms and mix of new intelligence sensors" would allow the U.S. military to decrease its reliance on statically emplaced non self destruct mines.

As part of his 1996 initiative, Clinton ordered the U.S. military to immediately discontinue use of so called "dumb" mines, which remain active until detonated or cleared, except for training purposes or on the Korean Peninsula and to destroy all non essential stockpiles by 1999. According to the Pentagon, the United States will still possess approximately one million such mines.

Posted: January 1, 1997

CD Weighs Draft CTB Treaty; U.S., Russia to Push for Signature

Please contact ACA for a copy of this story.

Posted: July 1, 1996

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