"I want to thank the Arms Control Association … for being such effective advocates for sensible policies to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and most importantly, reduce the risk of nuclear war."
– Senator Joe Biden
January 28, 2004
Conventional Arms Control and Trade

ATT Roundtable Discussion - September 30, 2009



On September 30, 2009, representatives from U.S. and foreign defense industries, the U.S. government, Congressional offices, and non-governmental organizations and think tanks were invited to discuss a potential Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The roundtable was organized by the Arms Control Association, the Center for Industry and Security (CITS) at the University of Georgia, Oxfam America, and Saferworld.

See attached document for meeting report.


On September 30, 2009, representatives from U.S. and foreign defense industries, the U.S. government, Congressional offices, and non-governmental organizations and think tanks were invited to discuss a potential Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

UN Conventional Arms Register Falters

Jeff Abramson

A group of governmental experts examining a UN list of imports and exports of major conventional weapons has failed to agree to add an official category for small arms and light weapons to that annual record, sources familiar with the discussions said. The setback likely means that the UN Register of Conventional Arms will not see significant improvements in participation until after the next triennial meeting of experts in 2012.

Beginning in 1992, the United Nations has urged countries to report their previous year’s exports and imports of major conventional weapons. Many countries, especially those in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean have participated in the register inconsistently because it did not include a category for small arms and light weapons. Those weapons are much more relevant to such countries’ security concerns than the arms covered by the register’s seven official categories: tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles and missile launchers.

The experts group held three sessions this year but at the final meeting in July could not agree to add small arms and light weapons as an eighth category. Instead, they recommended that the UN General Assembly seek views from member states on reporting about the weapons. While some sources familiar with the discussions said that one country was primarily responsible for holding up the creation of an eighth category, another source stressed that many countries lack the capacity to report on this category and that questions remain on the definition of small arms.

In 2003 the experts group recommended supplemental reporting on small arms and light weapons and, in 2006, agreed to a standardized form for such reports, although still not as an official category. (See ACT, November 2003; October 2006.) Since then, the number of countries submitting information on those weapons has dramatically increased, but the total number of countries filing reports has declined, in part due to a decrease in “nil” reporting. (See ACT, October 2008.) Because it is an official submission, a “nil” report, indicating no transactions, is typically a sign of support for the register.

In an Aug. 24 interview, a source close to the experts group said the failure to include a new official category for the weapons means that participation will be “negatively affected.” In 2001, 126 countries filed reports for transfers, but only 113 submitted them for 2006, and 91 for 2007. As of last month, just 68 had submitted reports for 2008, according to the register’s online database. It is not uncommon for countries to submit reports after the deadline, which is May 31 of the next year, but many experts are predicting that fewer than 100 countries will ultimately report on last year’s transfers.

Daniël Prins, head of the conventional arms branch of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, which oversees the register, said in an Aug. 24 interview that he, “like many others, was disappointed” by the content of the consensus-based group’s report. He emphasized that the decrease in participation is another sign that “the register is not in very good health.”

Some other proposals that the group took up also failed. These included calls for reporting on force multipliers, such as combat support vehicles; clarity on inclusion of unmanned aerial combat vehicles; and changes in the range of torpedoes covered by the register.

Nonetheless, Prins did say the register maintains “great potential” because it is the internationally agreed-on mechanism for “authoritative provision of arms import and export data and related information.” He highlighted two steps that he said the UN will take to improve the register. He said he hopes to convert the now unwieldy register into a truly searchable database and to offer more regional workshops on using the record.

A group of governmental experts examining a UN list of imports and exports of major conventional weapons has failed to agree to add an official category for small arms and light weapons to that annual record, sources familiar with the discussions said. The setback likely means that the UN Register of Conventional Arms will not see significant improvements in participation until after the next triennial meeting of experts in 2012. (Continue)

Arms Collection Begins in Southern Sudan

Emma Ensign

Authorities in Sudan have begun a series of weapons collection programs aimed at increasing security in the semiautonomous southern region of the country as part of an effort to increase stability there prior to national elections scheduled for April. The disarmament campaigns, which require civilians and the military to give up small arms, are mandated by a 2005 peace agreement. But the financial and political weakness of southern Sudan’s government has led some observers to question its ability to carry out the campaigns successfully, in spite of assistance from the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The campaigns come at a critical time in Sudan’s history. Since its independence in 1956, the country has been engulfed in two civil wars over resources, religion, and ideology. The more recent war ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which laid out the framework for a power-sharing arrangement between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south. In addition to requiring the disarmament campaigns, the peace agreement includes mandates for national elections in 2010 and a referendum on southern secession in 2011. The agreement is widely believed to be the sole provision standing in the way of a return to civil war, but implementation is faltering, and tensions are mounting in the run-up to the national elections. Reportedly, both the north and south are gearing up for a return to war.

Another concern is the rise in ethnic violence, which, according to one UN source, is escalating to “levels rarely seen even during the war.” The UN estimates that more than 1,000 people have been killed in southern Sudan since the beginning of the year, a death toll that exceeds that of Darfur, the war-torn western region of Sudan, over the same period of time. According to one estimate, there are 2 million small arms in southern Sudan, an area slightly smaller than Texas. Almost all are in the hands of civilians, who view the weapons as necessary for their safety and survival.

Salva Kiir, the president of southern Sudan, announced the government’s recommitment to the civilian disarmament campaign May 22. The statement came a year after the declaration of Operational Order 1/2008, which began a six-month program in southern Sudan aimed at completely disarming the civilian population.

Obstacles to Disarmament

The initial program, started in June 2008, did not have a clear mandate. As a voluntary disarmament measure, it gave civilians incentives to relinquish their weapons. However, it also explicitly condoned the use of force if peaceful methods did not prove sufficient, without clearly defining the limits of such force. The interpretation and application of the program were left largely up to the discretion of the 10 state governors whose job it was to carry out the program. Many of the collection efforts were marked by high numbers of civilian and military casualties as a result of efforts by the southern Sudanese army to disarm the civilian populations by force.

While expressing hope that the 2009 cycle of civilian disarmament would be more successful, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the head of the southern Sudanese mission to the United States, said his government would be proceeding “with caution.” The southern government conducted an emergency meeting with traditional leaders May 18-24 in Unity state to discuss issues of insecurity, Gatkuoth said in an Aug. 5 interview. The meeting highlighted the need to involve chiefs and traditional leaders in the disarmament process and examined the shortfalls of previous disarmament attempts, he said.

“State governors do not have the police force necessary to conduct disarmament,” he said. For that reason, he said, the southern government allowed its army, known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), to assist. Gatkuoth emphasized that the SPLA was brought in solely because the southern government did not have the capacity to carry out the project without military help.

Among the government’s problems are a weak police force and judiciary, as well as a lack of physical and institutional infrastructure, the UN source said. According to Gatkuoth, future civilian disarmament will rely more heavily on traditional leaders to jump-start the campaigns. The leaders will oversee registration efforts, acting as a conduit through which armed youth can surrender their weapons to local authorities, with the weapons being stored in SPLA barracks, he said. The southern government will then provide security for the disarmed regions, he said.

But many areas are likely to remain insecure and unstable, other observers said. According to Bill Paterson, the Sudan team leader for Saferworld, a London-based NGO that works with government institutions and civil society to promote security and conflict prevention, the SPLA does not have the capacity to protect all the regions that need added security, particularly because simultaneous disarmament throughout southern Sudan does not seem to be an attainable goal at the moment.

A further complication is that, in certain parts of southern Sudan, the government encourages gun ownership as a form of defense against armed groups. According to an issue brief published in May by the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project in Geneva on small arms and security, civilians in Western Equatoria state were encouraged to use their weapons to protect themselves by forming civilian defense forces against the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group notorious for its tendency to kidnap children for use as soldiers.

Although Gatkuoth said the disarmament program would reach every state once the dry season began in December, the UN source said the civilian disarmament program seems to target areas that are more politically threatening to the southern government and, within those, certain groups in certain communities that are particularly troublesome.

The government, for its part, publicly maintains that disarmament attempts are being complicated and undermined by the National Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party in the north. The southern government accuses the NCP of arming militias and ethnic groups in the south in an attempt to make the area “ungovernable,” according to Gatkuoth. The NCP denies these allegations. Another part of the work on Sudanese civilian disarmament is the approach that the UN Development Program (UNDP) is pursuing through its Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) project. Created in 2007, the program is specifically designed to head off the potential violence of forced disarmament. It works in areas that have either recently been forcefully disarmed or are facing forceful disarmament in the near future.

Disarming the Army

An effort to collect weapons from the military is running in parallel with the civilian disarmament campaigns. Under the 2005 peace agreement, the north and south agreed to reduce their armies by 90,000 soldiers each. The United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and UNDP have stepped in to help with the campaign through the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) project. As of June 14, more than 4,500 members of both northern and southern armies had been demobilized and reintegrated into civilian life, according to information posted on the UNMIS Web site.

The first phase of the campaign calls for the disarmament of 35,000 soldiers considered to have special needs, specifically women, children, and the disabled. Following a registration period, selected combatants are discharged and relinquish their weapons in exchange for reintegration packages consisting of money, provisions, and vocational training. The DDR process for the SPLA is considered particularly important because it is linked to the current transition of the SPLA from the armed branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement into a professional army. Disarmament campaigns in Sudan typically have been difficult, with corruption and violence leading to tensions between the civilian population and the army. According to Paterson, it is difficult to draw the line between combatants and civilians, in large part because civilians are so heavily armed.

Authorities in Sudan have begun a series of weapons collection programs aimed at increasing security in the semiautonomous southern region of the country as part of an effort to increase stability there prior to national elections scheduled for April. The disarmament campaigns, which require civilians and the military to give up small arms, are mandated by a 2005 peace agreement. But the financial and political weakness of southern Sudan’s government has led some observers to question its ability to carry out the campaigns successfully, in spite of assistance from the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). (Continue)

Can This Treaty Be Saved? Breaking the Stalemate on Conventional Forces in Europe

Wolfgang Zellner

Overshadowed by more pressing issues—Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and global terrorism—European security relations with Russia have deteriorated dramatically since the late 1990s. Over the last 10 years, European security policy has been increasingly dominated by unilateral and frequently confrontational approaches.

As a recent report by the EastWest Institute noted, there is “a growing desire in some quarters to punish or retaliate rather than to solve problems.”[1] This is a far cry from the principle of cooperative security to which the members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) committed themselves in the 1990 Charter of Paris. Nor is it compatible with NATO’s 1999 Strategic Concept, according to which a “strong, stable and enduring partnership between NATO and Russia is essential to achieve lasting stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”[2] Although U.S.-Russian relations are currently warming up, nearly every major security policy issue relating to Europe is still highly disputed; the list includes NATO enlargement, missile defense, military bases, energy security, conventional arms control, and subregional conflicts. The 2008 Georgia war was the definitive wake-up call when, for the first time, two OSCE states went to war against each other and one state recognized the independence of two entities, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, even though the other 55 OSCE states do not recognize them.

This development is all the more alarming because Europe in the early 1990s was the locus of the most comprehensive arms control regime in history. The regime’s core is the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, which was signed in 1990 and entered into force in 1992. This agreement limits its parties’ holdings in five categories of military equipment that were seen as particularly relevant for initiating large-scale offensive action: battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery pieces, combat aircraft, and attack helicopters. General limitations are complemented by regional ceilings in the center of Europe and at the “flanks” in the north and south of the treaty’s area of application, which stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals. The implementation of the treaty, which has largely been successful, is based on the detailed exchange of information and an intrusive verification system, under which more than 5,000 routine and challenge inspections have been carried out.

The treaty is based on parity between two “groups of States Parties,” identical to the members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the Cold War and their successor states. When the first members of the Eastern group of states-parties joined the Western alliance, it became necessary to adapt the treaty to accord with the changed political reality. The 1999 CFE Adaptation Agreement, which was signed at the OSCE Istanbul summit, replaced the treaty’s bloc-to-bloc structure with a system of national and territorial ceilings.[3] Regional ceilings were abolished, apart from the flank limitations. Almost immediately after the CFE Treaty entered into force in 1992, Russia became highly critical of the flank rule. As early as September 1993, Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent a letter to Western governments saying that “the cessation of the existence of the USSR, the adaptation of the Treaty to the new composition of membership—the dramatic development of several local conflicts and the large-scale withdrawal of our troops to the Russian interior” have created a new situation. “In these circumstances, the flank limitations acquire a unilateral and discriminatory character for Russia.”[4]

Today, the whole CFE regime is in jeopardy. The Adapted CFE Treaty has not yet entered into force because NATO states have not been ready to ratify it as a result of Russia’s nonimplementation of what are known as the Istanbul commitments: the complete withdrawal of its armed forces from Georgia and Moldova. Russia, in turn, does not accept any link between the legally binding Adapted CFE Treaty and its politically binding Istanbul commitments. In December 2007, Moscow unilaterally suspended its implementation of the original CFE Treaty out of frustration with the Western countries’ inaction on Adapted CFE Treaty ratification. Consequently, the Russian government no longer provides information on its treaty-limited equipment and refrains from accepting or participating in inspections. In contrast to earlier years, Russia is now demanding not only the ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty by the NATO states, but also a kind of balance between Russian and NATO forces; a definition of the term “substantial combat forces”; the accession of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the Adapted CFE Treaty; and, most importantly, the “abolition of flank restrictions on Russian territory.”[5] This situation is by no means sustainable, especially because the parties are currently not engaged in negotiations. If no decisive action is taken soon, the treaty regime will collapse with incalculable consequences not only for conventional arms control in Europe, but also for the whole idea of a cooperative security policy with Russia.

Several questions need answering: What caused the serious downturn in relations? What role did the CFE Treaty play in European security policy in the past, and what will the function of the Adapted CFE Treaty be in the future? Most importantly, what options exist for re-establishing a viable regime of conventional arms control in Europe?

Origins of the Crisis

To sort out the diverse factors that influenced the CFE Treaty, it is useful to distinguish among the strategic, Euro-strategic, and subregional levels. At the strategic U.S.-Russian level, which is dominated by nuclear weapons issues, relations worsened substantially during the last decade. Relevant developments were the failure to bring into force START II, the termination of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by the United States, and particularly U.S. plans for a global missile defense system with elements deployed in Europe. A short-lived improvement in U.S.-Russian relations following the September 11 attacks could not reverse this general negative trend. Although conventional armaments are certainly linked to missile defense in the Russian perception, this issue was not the decisive factor in the Russian suspension of the CFE Treaty. It is not even mentioned in the decree issued on the matter by President Vladimir Putin.

The key issue at the Euro-strategic level was and is NATO’s consecutive rounds of enlargement. The first round, in 1999 (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland), was still embedded in a cooperative context both by NATO’s announcement, in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, that it would not deploy nuclear weapons or “substantial combat forces” in the new member states and by the signing of the CFE Adaptation Agreement in 1999. This certainly cannot be said of the second round, in 2004. In a far tenser political environment, seven new NATO member states were accepted, among them three former Soviet republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) and two flank states (Bulgaria and Romania). The accession to NATO of flank states is especially sensitive, given Russia’s continuous opposition, since the early 1990s, to the flank rule that limits its equipment levels, particularly in the North Caucasus. The Russian government is thinking in terms of a military balance between the NATO states and Russia; re-establishment of the balance was one of the key demands in Putin’s December 2007 suspension decree. NATO’s April 2008 decision to accept Georgia and Ukraine as future members has further aggravated this matter.

NATO enlargement can be seen as one of the most important root causes of the CFE Treaty impasse, but NATO’s deliberate linking of the CFE Treaty and subregional conflicts provided the occasion for the outbreak of the current crisis. The CFE Treaty regime, including the Adapted CFE Treaty, has always been focused on the Euro-strategic balance of forces. Thus, its contributions to correcting subregional force asymmetries are fairly limited. With the exception of the balancing of Armenian and Azeri holdings through equal ceilings and the 1996 Florence agreement among Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and (later) Montenegro, which was modeled almost entirely on the CFE Treaty, the treaty has not had much to offer for the regulation of subregional asymmetries.

On the other hand, the linkage between the CFE Treaty and unresolved subregional conflicts, in the form of the Istanbul commitments, has substantially contributed to the undermining of the treaty. Although it might have always been clear to the U.S. government that ratifying the Adapted CFE Treaty would be possible only on the condition of the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova, at the NATO level this position was established only at the November 2002 Prague summit when the alliance “urge[d] swift fulfillment of the outstanding Istanbul commit­ments on Georgia and Moldova, which will create the conditions for Allies and other States Parties to move forward on ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty.”[6] A statement in the German government’s 2002 disarmament report demonstrates that this position was disputed within NATO before the Prague summit:

But some states are also insisting on the fulfillment by Russia of these non-CFE-relevant commitments [i.e., with­drawal from Georgia and Moldova] contained in the Istanbul Document. This would make the ratification of the adaptation agreement dependent upon the solution of some issues of rather less importance, and there would be a danger that the entry into force of the arms control agreement, which is of such basic importance for the security and stability of the whole European continent, would be delayed or even made impossible.[7]

The basic rationale for NATO’s linkage of Adapted CFE Treaty ratification and the Istanbul commitments is the idea that Russia’s great interest in the CFE Treaty would provide enough incentive for it to contribute to the resolution of the conflicts in Georgia and Moldova and to withdraw its forces from those countries. This expectation has proven false, and the experiment of using arms control as an instrument to resolve protracted conflicts has failed. In addition, Russia has followed the Western model and has established its own linkage between the CFE Treaty and subregional issues by demanding the abolition of the flank rule for Russia before the Adapted CFE Treaty can be put into force.

History and Future of the Regime

Undisputedly, the CFE Treaty contributed substantially to ending the Cold War in a controlled way. It removed Soviet superiority in heavy conventional armaments, thereby fulfilling its primary goal of eliminating the potential for surprise attack and large-scale offensive action. It mitigated fears connected with German reunification by limiting the size of German treaty-limited equipment holdings to ceilings that had already been agreed within NATO. Also, the treaty was highly useful in dividing up the conventional arms holdings of the Soviet Union among the eight successor states that are within the treaty’s area of application, under the Tashkent agreement of May 1992. All this was done in a completely transparent manner and verified.

It is far less clear, however, how the Adapted CFE Treaty can strengthen security and stability in the future.[8] A first contribution—for some experts, the most important one—is that the Adapted CFE Treaty would continue to provide verified transparency and thus prevent mistrust and a lack of information from leading to the emergence of new security dilemmas and related buildups of armaments. That does not mean that there would be a danger of a new, all-out arms race in Europe without the CFE Treaty, but the danger of specific arms races does exist. In an open letter to the Obama administration, more than 20 former political leaders from central European countries called for “contingency planning, prepositioning of forces, equipment, and supplies for reinforcement in our region.”[9]

A second benefit is that the Adapted CFE Treaty, if brought into force, would contribute to avoiding subregional arms races. This is particularly true for Armenia and Azerbaijan, where the lifting of equal ceilings would almost certainly lead to a new arms race that would undermine the chances for a peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and could lead to new tensions between NATO countries and Russia. Another question is whether the Florence agreement can survive if its model, the CFE Treaty, collapses.

Third, conventional stability can prevent tactical nuclear weapons from assuming a larger role in Europe. If gross conventional imbalances exist, it might be tempting for Russia to deploy tactical nuclear weapons as a type of compensation.

Fourth, the impact of the collapse of the CFE Treaty would not be limited to this specific treaty but would influence European arms control in general, as well as all institutions and instruments dealing with cooperative security. It is doubtful whether the Vienna Document 1999 on confidence- and security-building measures could survive if the CFE Treaty failed.[10] More broadly, institutions such as the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council could be affected. Finally, the breakdown of cooperative security policy in Europe would have a negative impact on U.S.-Russian strategic relations. It is difficult to imagine that they could continue to improve if tensions in Europe were to rise.

Revitalizing the Regime

In recent years, there has been almost no public debate on the CFE Treaty. This has now changed significantly; in the past few months, a number of meetings and publications have looked into options for overcoming the CFE Treaty impasse. In May 2009, the EastWest Institute convened a discussion on the CFE Treaty, resulting in the publication of a paper by Jeffrey McCausland.[11] The EastWest Institute has also published a report on Euro-Atlantic security that deals with CFE issues.[12] Further, on June 10, 2009, the German Federal Foreign Office organized an informal, high-level expert meeting on conventional arms control in Europe; about 40 governmental delegations participated. The following section, which outlines three options for dealing with the CFE Treaty, builds on ideas contained in the two EastWest Institute reports as well as those contained in a book with 24 articles from U.S., Russian, and European experts, co-edited by the author.[13]

The first option is the easiest in terms of activity, but possibly the most severe in terms of consequences: do nothing, apart from starting the blame game, and wait until the treaty collapses. If nothing is done, it is only a question of time until one or more parties raise the question of whether the nonimplementation of the CFE Treaty by Russia constitutes a material breach of the treaty justifying withdrawal under Article XIX, paragraph 2 (“extraordinary events”). This option is perhaps not particularly tempting for advocates of arms control, but it certainly has its followers—all those who do not believe in negotiated arms control or who prefer unilateral military options to cooperative approaches.

The second option, NATO’s parallel action package (PAP), was introduced in the fall of 2007 and published in March 2008. NATO’s statement on the PAP says, “NATO Allies will move forward on ratification of the Adapted CFE Treaty in parallel with implementation of specific, agreed steps by the Russian Federation to resolve outstanding issues related to Russian forces/facilities in the Republic of Moldova and Georgia.”[14] The PAP is the only agreed negotiating platform on the CFE Treaty, and even the Russian Foreign Ministry conceded that it “contains some positive moments.”[15] Several Russian demands raised in the context of suspension could be resolved within the PAP framework. NATO’s statement says, “NATO members that are not Parties to the CFE Treaty will publicly reiterate their readiness to request accession to the Adapted Treaty,” as demanded by Russia. In the same way, the alliance declared that NATO and Russia would develop a definition of the term “substantial combat forces.” The statement is rather vague, however, on Russia’s request for lower ceilings for the NATO countries: “[W]e would consider changes, where possible, to the level of equipment ceilings.” Russia’s main demand, the abolition of the flank ceilings for Russia, is not addressed at all.

The principal shortcoming of the PAP is the difficulty in imagining, after the 2008 Georgia war, “implementation of specific, agreed steps by the Russian Federation” (the implementation of the Istanbul commitments). A solution for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova is still conceivable if Russian peacekeeping forces there are excluded from the Istanbul commitments, as suggested by one of the options in the EastWest Institute report, and if the focus is on the closure of the Russian ammunition depot in Colbasna, as proposed by other experts.[16] In this context, it is remarkable how optimistic German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were in their description of the situation in Moldova with regard to the CFE Treaty. In a joint article for this year’s Munich Security Conference, they wrote, “Through our dialogue with Russia, we wish to create the conditions for ratifying the [Adapted] CFE Treaty. A rapid solution could for example be found for the Transnistria issue so as to create a different atmosphere.”[17]

Yet, there seems to be no realistic way to resolve the issue of the withdrawal of the Russian forces from Georgia, where Russia has deployed significant levels of forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The expectation that Russian forces will be withdrawn from these two entities, even in the medium term, is as unrealistic as the hope that Russia will revoke its recognition of their independence. Therefore, the German government’s 2008 annual disarmament report was right to state that “[n]onetheless, developments in Georgia mean that the Parallel Action Package needs to be adapted with regard to the Istanbul Commitments.”[18] The only remaining question concerns the form this adjustment should take. For just as it would be counterproductive to simply insist on the Istanbul commitments in their current form, political considerations, particularly regarding the need for host-state support for any deployment of armed forces, make it all but impossible to simply drop them.

The third option of a larger “package solution,” one of the variants discussed in the EastWest Institute report, has much in common with the PAP but goes beyond it in two important elements. First, the report proposes “lifting territorial sublimits for the Russian Federation,” meaning the abolishment of the flank rule for Russia. In reality, it will be very difficult for NATO members to agree on this because of the strong opposition of Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Norway. Second, the report stipulates “negotiating reduced levels of armaments for NATO members,” which might be somewhat easier. Like the PAP, however, the report cannot resolve the question of the withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia.

This problem is basically one of subregional disputes and cannot be fixed by means of arms control. That is what the Istanbul commitments tried to achieve and why they failed, even if this is not yet recognized by most NATO states. If there are disputed territories, either they have to be excluded from relevant arms control agreements, or status-neutral solutions must be found. This is possible, as evidenced by the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, where hundreds of pieces of so-called uncontrolled treaty-limited equipment exist that are under neither Armenian nor Azeri control. Although the uncontrolled treaty-limited equipment problem has been discussed again and again, nobody made its solution a condition for ratifying the Adapted CFE Treaty. All in all, there is no ready-made technical solution for this problem, which can only be resolved at a high level and probably only within the scope of an even larger package deal that goes beyond arms control. Political leaders will have to decide whether or not Georgia is important enough to block a pan-European arms control agreement.

Finally, there is broad agreement among experts that the Adapted CFE Treaty itself has become outdated in certain respects. This particularly concerns the need to introduce elements that address subregional asymmetries between small states and between small and large states, an issue where conceptual thinking has only recently started. Thus, efforts to bring the Adapted CFE Treaty into force must be combined with the launch of a new round of CFE-3 negotiations.

Cooperative Security Policy

At the moment, there are no active negotiations on the CFE Treaty. Everybody is waiting for the new U.S. policy. Although Rose Gottemoeller testified in March, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing on her nomination to be assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation, that “helping to resolve the impasse with Russia on the CFE Treaty also will be one of my top priorities,”[19] nothing is known about what a new U.S. position on the CFE Treaty might look like.

The real problem is not arms control in a more technical sense, but rather the quality of political relations among states. Consequently, one has to ask what key political problem arms control, among other means, can address. An important answer was provided by Gottemoeller, who, in an article written before she joined the Obama administration, said the key task is “no less than trying to correct the major problem that went unresolved at the end of the Cold War: how to weave Russia, and Russian security interests, into the full fabric of European security.”[20] If the CFE Treaty fails, this will become nearly impossible. If conventional arms control in Europe, in the form of the Adapted CFE Treaty and beyond, can be revitalized, it could become an essential tool for integrating Russia into Euro-Atlantic security structures. Although instruments of arms control cannot overcome basic political disagreements, they can seal political accords.

Wolfgang Zellner is deputy director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg and head of its Centre for OSCE Research. From 1984 to 1991, he worked as an adviser to a member of the German Bundestag on military and security issues, including European arms control.


1. EastWest Institute, “Euro-Atlantic Security: One Vision, Three Paths,” June 2009, p. 1, www.ewi.info/euro-atlantic-security. The author was a member of the group that prepared the report.

2. “The Alliance’s Strategic Concept,” April 24, 1999, para. 36, www.nato.int/docu/pr/1999/p99-065e.htm.

3. For an analysis of the differences between the CFE Treaty and the Adapted CFE Treaty, see Wade Boese, “Executive Summary of the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty,”Arms Control Today, November 1999, www.armscontrol.org/act/1999_11/wbno99.

4. The Arms Control Reporter, November 1993, pp. 407.D.85-86. The original flank area, according to article 5, paragraph 1(A) of the CFE Treaty, comprised Bulgaria, Greece, Iceland, Norway, Romania, and Turkey, along with several military districts of the Soviet Union: Leningrad, Odessa (today Moldova and part of Ukraine), Transcaucasus (today Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), and North Caucasus. According to the Tashkent agreement of May 15, 1992, which divided the treaty-limited equipment of the Soviet Union among its successor states, Russia was allotted 1,300 tanks, 1,380 armored combat vehicles (ACVs), and 1,680 artillery pieces. At the first CFE Review Conference in May 1996, Russia was given considerably higher flank ceilings. According to the formula “old geography, new figures; old figures, new geography,” Russia was allowed 1,800 tanks, 3,700 ACVs and 2,400 artillery pieces in the old flank zone, whereas the figures from the Tashkent agreement were now applied to a new, considerably smaller flank area. The 1999 CFE Adaptation Agreement raised the Russian ACV ceiling again, this time in the smaller flank area, from 1,380 to 2,140.

In 1990, the flank rule was of strategic importance: its aim was to ensure that armaments withdrawn from the center of Europe would not be redeployed in the flanks, creating options for large-scale offensive action there. Since the mid-1990s, however, it has lost its strategic relevance and can be considered a subregional issue today. See Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (1990), www.osce.org/documents/doclib/1990/11/13752_en.pdf; Final Document of the First Conference to Review the Operation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and the Concluding Act of the Negotiation on Personnel Strength, Vienna, May 15-31, 1996, pp. 7-8, www.osce.org/documents/doclib/1996/05/13755_en.pdf; Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, p. 22, www.osce.org/documents/doclib/1999/11/13760_en.pdf.

5. President of Russia, “Information on the Decree ‘On Suspending the Russian Federation’s Participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe and Related International Agreements,’” July 14, 2007, www.kremlin.ru/eng/text/docs/2007/07/137839.shtml.

6. NATO, “Prague Summit Declaration,” (2002)127, November 21, 2002, para. 15, http://www.nato.int/docu/pr/2002/p02-127e.htm.

7. “Report of the Federal Government on the State of the Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-Proliferation Efforts and on the Development of Military Potential (Annual Disarmament Report 2002),” 2002, p. 87 (author’s translation).

8. See Jeffrey D. McCausland, “The Future of the CFE Treaty: Why It Still Matters,” EastWest Institute, 2009, http://www.ewi.info/future-cfe-treaty.

9. Valdas Adamkus et al., “An Open Letter to the Obama Administration from Central and Eastern Europe,” July 15, 2009, http://wyborcza.pl/1,86671,6825987,An_Open_Letter_to_the_Obama_Administration_from_Central.html.

10. The Vienna Document 1999 calls for an exchange of military information, risk reduction mechanisms, military contacts, the prior notification and observation of certain military activities, and other confidence- and security-building measures. Today, many of its provisions have become outdated, and the whole document would need a thorough review. See OSCE, “Vienna Document 1999 of the Negotiations on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures,” November 16, 1999, www.osce.org/documents/fsc/1999/11/4265_en.pdf.

11. McCausland, “Future of the CFE Treaty.”

12. EastWest Institute, “Euro-Atlantic Security.”

13. Wolfgang Zellner, Hans-Joachim Schmidt, and Götz Neuneck, eds., The Future of Conventional Arms Control in Europe (Baden-Baden: Nomos Publishers, 2009).

14. NATO, “NAC Statement on CFE,” (2008)047, March 28, 2008, www.nato.int/docu/pr/2008/p08-047e.html.

15. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Russian MFA Information and Press Department Commentary on NATO’s Statement on Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe,” April 1, 2008.

16. For comparison, see Wolfgang Richter, “Ways Out of the Crisis: Approaches for the Preservation of the CFE Regime,” in The Future of Conventional Arms Control in Europe, eds. Wolfgang Zellner, Hans-Joachim Schmidt, and Götz Neuneck, p. 361.

17. “‘Security, Our Joint Mission’ - President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel’s Joint Article in ‘Le Monde,’” February 4, 2009, www.ambafrance-uk.org/Security-our-joint-mission.html. The conflict between the Republic of Moldova and its secessionist region of Transdniestria broke out in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and led, in 1992, to a war with 1,000 casualties and about 100,000 refugees. Despite 17 years of OSCE mediation, the conflict has not yet been resolved.

18. “Report of the Federal Government on the State of the Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-Proliferation Efforts and on the Development of Military Potential (Annual Disarmament Report 2008),” 2009, p. 60 (author’s translation).

19. “Testimony of Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State-designate for the Bureau of Verification and Compliance,” March 26, 2009, http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2009/GottemoellerTestimony090326p.pdf.

20. Rose Gottemoeller, “Russian-American Security Relations After Georgia,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2008, p. 7, www.carnegieendowment.org/files/russia_us_security_relations_after_georgia.pdf.


Overshadowed by more pressing issues—Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and global terrorism—European security relations with Russia have deteriorated dramatically since the late 1990s. Over the last 10 years, European security policy has been increasingly dominated by unilateral and frequently confrontational approaches. (Continue)

Russia Vetoes UN Mission in Georgia

Cole Harvey

Russia voted against extending the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) in the Security Council June 15, scuttling a last-minute effort to renew the mission's mandate and dealing another blow to the already strained Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.

The vote ended the nearly 16-year-old mission to help keep the peace between Georgia and its breakaway territory of Abkhazia. In a press release following the vote, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the proposed extension of the mandate "useless in the present situation" because it does not refer to Abkhazia as an independent state. Moscow recognized the independence of Abkhazia and nearby South Ossetia following Russia's conflict with Georgia in August 2008.

UNOMIG was established in 1994 to monitor a ceasefire between Georgia and separatists in Abkhazia following a series of conflicts after the fall of the Soviet Union. The mission set up a demilitarized zone along the Abkhazian border and a broader region where heavy weapons were not permitted. As of February, UNOMIG was staffed by 151 international uniformed personnel.

British, French, and U.S. diplomats wanted to extend the UNOMIG mandate with a reference to Security Council Resolution 1808, in which the council reaffirmed the territorial integrity of Georgia. Russia's ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said there was no sense in extending the original mandate "since it's built on old realities." Ten states in the Security Council voted in favor of the extension, with four abstentions. Russia was the only country to vote against the resolution, but, as a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia has veto power.

Russia signed treaties of friendship with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in September 2008 and pledged to guarantee the security of the two territories. Under the mutual assistance pacts, Russia is setting up one military base in each territory and has taken responsibility for guarding the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders.

Moscow's decision to recognize the independence of the two territories and to commit military forces to their defense further clouds the future of the 1990 CFE Treaty. The treaty, which governs military force levels in Europe, was adapted by its parties in 1999 to take into account the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the expansion of NATO. The adapted treaty has not come into force, pending ratification by the NATO states.

At the 1999 Istanbul summit that produced the Adapted CFE, Russia made a nonbinding "political" commitment to shutter its military bases in Georgia and to reduce its military presence there. Russia continued to maintain a small "peacekeeping" garrison in Abkhazia after the 1999 summit, and NATO countries refused to ratify the adapted treaty while those forces remained in Georgia. (See ACT, January/February 2007.) Frustrated by the NATO refusal to ratify the Adapted CFE, President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia's implementation of the original treaty Dec. 12, 2007. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

Addressing the Security Council after the vote last month, Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.S. alternative representative for special political affairs at the UN, said the United States "deeply regrets" the failure to extend the UNOMIG mandate and stressed the importance of a UN presence in Georgia.

An EU observer mission is now operating in Georgia, but it will end Oct. 1 unless its mandate is extended by the EU member states. In a June 15 statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry called these observers a "considerable restraining factor" on tensions in the region and said that Russia is "ready to continue and strengthen our cooperation with the European Union in this area." Unlike the UN monitors, however, the EU observers do not have free access to territory inside Abkhazia.


Russia voted against extending the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) in the Security Council June 15, scuttling a last-minute effort to renew the mission's mandate and dealing another blow to the already strained Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. (Continue)

Toward a Legally Binding Arms Trade Treaty: An Interview with Bill Rammell

An Interview With British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Bill Rammell

Interviewed by Jeff Abramson and Daniel Horner

Bill Rammell serves as minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs in the United Kingdom. His responsibilities encompass the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; the Far East and Southeast Asia; North America; drugs and international crime; and migration policy. Arms Control Today met with Rammell May 5 to discuss the United Kingdom's efforts on an arms trade treaty and other international arms control issues.

ACT: The United Kingdom is playing a leadership role in the arms trade treaty, promoting a legally binding global arms trade treaty. By some accounts, the United Kingdom is the second- or third-largest arms supplier in the world.[1] Why is the United Kingdom still interested in this treaty when it could in theory limit its ability in the arms market?

Rammell: This would put no greater constraints on the legitimate trade in arms. And yes, we have got substantial jobs and business investments in that. That is something that we support. But there is nothing within our proposal for an arms trade treaty that would constrain us any more than our current arms export controls, which are very strong. It will be an international treaty implemented by domestic law. It is about creating a level playing field with the same environment for everybody. There is a fundamental issue that, in some circumstances, weapons are exported to countries of conflict, to countries of civil disorder, that are creating enormous problems and carnage for civilians. That is what we are trying to tackle. It is not the legitimate arms trade, which I think is here to stay.

ACT: Other countries have been less enthusiastic about the arms trade treaty. What do you think their rationale for supporting the treaty would be? Is it the same as yours, or would it be different and require different arguments?

Rammell: One, what is interesting with the way we have led this is that this isn't just a government or nongovernmental organization backing it. We've got substantial elements of our own arms exporting industry that are backing it because they can see it makes life clearer and it reinforces their legitimate trade and underlines those companies that seek the illegitimate route. I think there is growing support for an arms trade treaty. I mean, if you look at the figures from when we first raised this, there were 114 countries who co-sponsored a resolution. There was then, at the back end of December, 133 states who voted in favor of the resolution. We're now going through the open-ended procedure at the United Nations.[2] I think there are grounds for optimism that this is an argument that is beginning to gain greater traction.

I'm sure you're going to ask me about the position of the United States. My very strong sense is that, under the previous administration, it was no, no, no. It was interesting in the first meeting of the open-ended working group, the contribution from the U.S. delegate was not no, no, no.[3] It was, "Well, how exactly would this work?" That, combined with our discussions with the administration, indicates to me that there is now an interest in this issue. It is by no means at the point where [the U.S. position] is "Yes, we want to sign up" yet. But [there is] an interest, and we're going to pursue that dialogue, and I hope it gets to a position where the United States can support it.

ACT: You mentioned that the British industry is behind this, which may not be happening in other countries. Do you have a feel for whether there is dialogue in that way to bring another voice to calling for an arms trade treaty at this point?

Rammell: Yeah, I guess because we've been very up front with this and taken the lead on it internationally, we've gone out of our way to take British exporters with us.[4] And I think that has worked. We're now trying to do two things. In the discussions that we have with other partners internationally, we're saying, "Look, you guys need to be talking to your arms exporters." And two, we're actually getting British businesses to talk to their counterparts from overseas to try and build that momentum and coalition.

ACT: One criticism leveled at conventional arms treaties is that there is no real enforcement mechanism. The UN Security Council can have an arms embargo, but sometimes those are not effective. How do you think about an arms trade treaty and how it might be enforced, if "enforced" is the right word?

Rammell: We're not saying that there's going to be some global mechanism to enforce this, one, because I don't think it would be very effective, [and] two, it would kill the treaty stone dead. It's going to be a legally enforced situation, but down to national enforcement. Now if you look at the countries that have got strong arms export control regimes, that's how it works. I think there are grounds for confidence that once you establish it, there will then be the legal powers within individual countries and it's then down to them to enforce it.

There was one other thing on the United States I wanted to say because I think it's important to make this very clear. This is in no way, shape, or form targeted at domestic gun control. You've got rigorous arms export controls at the moment. That doesn't impact on domestic possession of guns in the United States. This wouldn't in any way, shape, or form do that also.

ACT: Back to your point about those standards: What level of specificity do you have?

Rammell: Part of my difficulty in answering that question, and I'm not trying to duck it, is we're in a process of negotiation and if I start setting out detailed prescriptions, then that's going to put some people [off from] coming on board. Nevertheless, there will be standard benchmark criteria that will exist for every country, but it's then down to those individual countries and their legal systems to enforce it. I think that's the right way to go. There are a number of models we can look at internationally that already exist, like we've got now legally binding arms export controls within the European Union, which again are legally enforceable, but it's down to the individual nation-states to enforce them.[5]

ACT: As currently set up, the open-ended working group that is discussing the arms trade treaty could extend its work through July 2011. It has been suggested by some that if that goes too slowly, it might make sense to pursue negotiations outside of the group, perhaps something similar to the Oslo process.[6] How do you assess progress so far in the open-ended working group? Do you think it realistic that countries might launch a separate process, and could you envision the United Kingdom ever being part of that separate process?

Rammell: Well, I never say never, but I'm actually cautiously optimistic at the moment. I think the figure I quoted-133 states have signed up in principle to support, [and] when we had that vote in December there were only 19 abstentions, and I know the United States voted against it, and I think things have shifted since then. So there's a lot of detailed work to be done. I would hope we can get there sooner rather than later, and I think this is developing a momentum. I never rule out any mechanism, but I think at the moment there are very reasonable prospects that we can achieve this through the open-ended working group.

ACT: Address some of the nuclear questions, especially along the lines of what Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised in his speech.[7] Can you flesh out a little bit more of this concept of the new international architecture for nuclear security? There were some specific references to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and the role of the IAEA, so how do you see that playing out, and how would you strengthen the role of the IAEA? Financially? Institutionally? Enforcement mechanisms?

Rammell: I mean, in personnel terms, we need a strong director-general, and the process of his appointment or election is currently being gone through on that front. We want a properly resourced IAEA. It is interesting that the IAEA recently undertook their own internal assessment.

It said actually there needs to be a greater prioritization, and I think also the idea, especially in the current fiscal climate, that you're going to get a lot more resources is not realistic. I think we've got to bridge the divide that exists and really focus on the role of the IAEA in enforcing the international agreements that exist. I think we're looking in the [Preparatory Committee] for the NPT [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] review for strong outcomes.[8] I am encouraged by the moves that are being made generally on disarmament. If you look at our own record, we've reduced our number of warheads by 50 percent in the last decade.[9] I think we've taken a leading position on that. But I'm now very encouraged by President Obama, what he's been saying about further reductions. The Russians appear to be responding cautiously and in kind. That's the disarmament side, and I think that is positive, and we've got to move forward with that.

The flip side is, we've absolutely got to tackle the problem of proliferation, which is why the IAEA dealing with Iran, why, through the six-party talks process, tackling the problem in North Korea is particularly important. Because go back to the heart of the NPT and there's a deal there.... I think sometimes we can underplay how effective the NPT has been. I was giving some evidence recently to our foreign affairs select committee, and I came across [President John F. Kennedy's] statements....[10] His projection, and I don't think this was unrealistic at the time, was that there would be a massive explosion, excuse the pun, massive growth of nuclear-weapon states, and actually it hasn't happened. We've got some challenges, but we've got to keep that deal going.

ACT: Can I just backtrack on some of the points you sort of ticked off? "We need a strong director-general." Do you think Mohamed ElBaradei has been a strong director-general?

Rammell: I think he's been effective, but inevitably when you come for the election for somebody new, you look at what you need from that person. You see you need someone that is managerially focused, who can manage what is a very large organization. You need someone who will be able to bridge the divide between the advanced world nuclear-weapon states and the Nonaligned Movement. You critically need someone who is going to implement the rules and the authority of the IAEA and not try to paper over...if you got someone who is that sublime that they will actually seek to tackle that problem with the authority of the IAEA, not look at the compromises which actually lets an offender off.

ACT: And you're implying that perhaps ElBaradei has done that?

Rammell: Nope, I think he's been effective. But I'm saying to you whenever you have an election for a new post, you need to look at what qualities you're looking for.

ACT: People have been talking for a long time that there would have to be some penalty for countries doing [something] like what North Korea did: they withdraw from the treaty and invoke this clause of the NPT of a supreme national interest,[11] when it is apparently not the case. It is difficult to come up with a really feasible, implementable way to do that. What can you do?

Rammell: I think that is the difference if you look at North Korea, and I'm still the only British minister to have gone to North Korea, which I did in 2004, it is more cut off from any nation anywhere on Earth. Historically, it has not been able to feed its people, has very little trade links with the outside world. In those circumstances, what sanctions could you implement? I mean, there is a debate about those countries which do have trade links with the country actually being prepared to take action on that front. But a legally enforceable sanction, I think, would be difficult to achieve.

ACT: On the economic issue, you said, given the current financial situation, it would be difficult expect significant increases. The Zedillo report advocated an immediate 50 million euro increase,[12] and the Obama administration has been talking about doubling the IAEA budget.[13] Do you have some sort of quantity in mind or some goal?

Rammell: Over the medium term, I think you may get some movement on this. But I just think, at the moment, it is unrealistic to expect big increases in the budget. Actually, what came out of that report strongly for me was that [the] first call wasn't for an increase in resources. It was actually, "Come on guys; we need to look at the way money is being spent and how it's being prioritized at the moment."

ACT: You said sort of an important parallel component to the strategic reductions and proliferation, substrategic weapons-do you see the United Kingdom as playing a role in pushing that? Do you still see those weapons as necessary in serving an important security function?

Rammell: At the moment, yes. But our longer-term ambition is to get further disarmament, and I think the commitment being made by the United States, the discussions, the potentially starting with the Russians, I would hope that that would make progress.

ACT: In April, the E3+3 welcomed the U.S. approach to Iran, including the occasional joint talks with Iran from now on.[14] What does U.S. participation mean in the process, and is there a new approach to be pursued as a group?

Rammell: I think there is genuine unanimity on this. We certainly welcome President Obama's commitment to engage in a dialogue with the Iranians. It's not an open-ended offer. I think the Iranians need to recognize that this is a serious opportunity and they could have taken it by engaging seriously. I think there is a window of opportunity for that to happen this year. If they don't, then I think we need to be in a much, much tougher position on sanctions. I think it is that twin-track approach that's saying, "Look, come on, there's all sorts of advantages and benefits to you here, in terms of normalization, in terms of trade relationship, in terms of giving you what you say you want in terms of access to civil nuclear power, if you can reassure us on your nuclear weapons intentions. If you don't take that approach, we're going to be in a much tougher position on sanctions."

For a complete transcript of the interview, please click here.


1. In recent years, Russia and the United Kingdom have been the second- and third-largest suppliers of conventional weaponry, depending on measurement metrics. See Jeff Abramson, "U.S. Atop Expanding Global Arms Market," Arms Control Today, December 2008, pp. 56-57.

2. In 2006, 76 countries sponsored and, ultimately, 139 countries voted in support of the UN First Committee resolution that began "[t]owards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." The United States voted no; 24 countries, many from the Middle East, abstained. That vote led to the establishment of a group of governmental experts to study the issue and to the submission of comments by nearly 100 countries on a possible treaty. On December 24, 2008, the General Assembly voted to move the process forward into an open-ended working group. In that vote, 133 countries voted in favor, the United States voted no, and 19 countries abstained. That resolution was co-sponsored by 114 countries. See Jeff Abramson, "Arms Trade Treaty Discussion Creeps Forward," Arms Control Today, December 2008, pp. 53-54.

3. Prior to the March 2-6 open-ended working group meeting, the U.S. position had been interpreted as unsupportive of an arms trade treaty. On March 5, U.S. representative Donald Mahley stated that "[n]one of this history, though, can or should be taken to mean that the United States is not interested in and would not support effective international arrangements for controlling the international conventional arms trade and especially preventing such arms from serving illegitimate or anti-humanitarian purposes." U.S. Statement, ATT Session One, March 5, 2009, www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/ArmsTradeTreaty/docs/OEWG09_S1_statements/US-5Mar.PDF.

4. British trade associations that have expressed support for an arms trade treaty include the Defence Manufacturers Association and the Society of British Aerospace Companies.

5. In December 2008, the European Union adopted a legally binding common position that updates the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, which established criteria for examining applications for the export of conventional arms as well as consultative and transparency mechanisms.

6. Following the failure of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to address the use of cluster munitions, Norway announced in 2006 that it would take the lead on reaching an agreement concerning the weapons. That effort, known as the Oslo process, resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions. See Jeff Abramson, "Countries Sign Cluster Munitions Convention," Arms Control Today, January/February 2009, pp. 25-27.

7. On February 6, the British Foreign Office released "Lifting the Nuclear Shadow: Creating the Conditions for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons," which identified steps toward ridding the world of nuclear weapons. In a March 17 speech in London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown further discussed the United Kingdom's vision on nuclear issues.

8. The Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference met in New York May 4-15.

9. The British government stated in a 1998 Strategic Defense Review that it would "maintain a stockpile of fewer than 200 operationally available warheads," down from about 300. It is unclear how many warheads might be held in reserve.

10. At a press conference on March 21, 1963, President John F. Kennedy warned, "I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have [nuclear] weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard."

11. Article X of the NPT says, "Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests." North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003.

12. Ernesto Zedillo et al., "Reinforcing the Global Nuclear Order for Peace and Prosperity: The Role of the IAEA to 2020 and Beyond," 2008, p. 30, www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/PDF/2020report0508.pdf. Zedillo, the former president of Mexico, was the head of an independent commission that prepared the report at the request of ElBaradei. According to the report, the IAEA Board of Governors should agree "to underpin the expansion of the Agency's security and safety work, other activities in support of newcomer states embarking on nuclear programs, and an expansion of work in nuclear applications and technology transfer." The report also says that "[t]he exact amount of additional regular budget should be determined after a detailed review of the budgetary situation and additional workloads of the Agency, but the Commission estimates that increases of about €50 million annually in real terms might be necessary during several years."

13. "The IAEA is understaffed and under-resourced for the current and growing responsibilities placed on it by the international community. That is why the President-Elect has called for doubling the IAEA's budget over the next four years." Hillary Rodham Clinton, Answers to "Questions for the Record" from Senator John Kerry, January 2009, p. 29. The questions were submitted in conjunction with Clinton's January 13 confirmation hearing.

14. The E3+3 comprises China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. An April 8 joint statement by the six countries said, "The other members of the group warmly welcome the new direction of US policy towards Iran and their decision to participate fully in the E3+3 process and join in any future meetings with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran."


Bill Rammell serves as minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs in the United Kingdom. His responsibilities encompass the Middle East, including Iraq and Iran; counterterrorism; counterproliferation; the Far East and Southeast Asia; North America; drugs and international crime; and migration policy. Arms Control Today met with Rammell May 5 to discuss the United Kingdom's efforts on an arms trade treaty and other international arms control issues. (Continue)

CCW Extends Work on Clusters Protocol

Jeff Abramson

At what was to be their final meeting of the year, a group of governmental experts failed to complete the text of a possible new protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) specifically addressing cluster munitions. The meeting chairman, however, vowed to push ahead in hopes of reaching an agreement. Meanwhile, a sixth country ratified a separate treaty on the weapons.

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. Those submunitions sometimes strike civilians or fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. Outrage over use of cluster munitions in southern Lebanon in 2006 and the failure of the CCW to adopt new measures related to the weapons helped spur the so-called Oslo process that led to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). That convention bars the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates countries to destroy stockpiles, conduct clearance efforts, and take steps to help victims. (See ACT, December 2008.) In April, Austria became the sixth country to ratify the treaty, which requires 30 ratifications to enter into force.

Despite international pressure, many of the world's top producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions, including Russia and the United States, have resisted calls to join the CCM, instead opting for continued conversation within the CCW. When the CCW failed in 2008 to develop a new protocol on cluster munitions, states-parties agreed to two more rounds of meetings in 2009, Feb. 16-20 and April 14-17. (See ACT, December 2008.)

Led by a new chairman, Gustavo Ainchil of Argentina, the second round of meetings of CCW governmental experts concluded without a final text. It did accept Ainchil's procedural report, which included the text of what could eventually be a sixth protocol to the CCW.

Article 4 of the text outlines general prohibitions and restrictions on cluster munitions that fail to meet one of two proposed standards. (See ACT, September 2008.) The first standard allows usage of cluster munitions that have a still-undefined number of safeguards, such as self-destruct, self-neutralizing, and self-deactivating mechanisms. The second standard follows current U.S. policy, which limits use of weapons with a failure rate of greater than 1 percent. (See ACT, April 2009.) Critics have argued that tests to determine such dud rates are inaccurate.

In a separate article, the draft exempts the same weapons that the CCM does from being defined as cluster munitions, a narrow range of weapons that meet five criteria. At the same time, the draft calls for those weapons to be covered by other provisions within the text, creating a source of contention within the group.

Additionally, the proposal allows states to defer compliance, with certain limitations, for "X years." Defining the length of that period remains a sticking point in the group. The U.S. Department of Defense indicated last year that it will continue to allow limited usage of cluster munitions with a failure rate of greater than 1 percent until 2018. (See ACT, September 2008.)

Recognizing that the CCW draft was incomplete, Ainchil asked to continue working and proposed a new round of informal consultations, tentatively scheduled for August. Because no future formal meetings of the group are authorized, the process for such consultations remains unclear.

The next meeting of CCW states-parties is Nov. 12-13. If progress is made on the text, the chair could submit a report that would serve as the basis for negotiation and possible adoption of a new protocol at the members' meeting.

The United States continues to support the CCW effort. In his closing statement April 17, U.S. delegation head Stephen Mathias said, "Over 95 percent of our cluster munitions will be affected by this new standard."

The impact the protocol might have on other countries' stockpiles is less well understood. John Duncan, British ambassador for arms control and disarmament, told Arms Control Today in an e-mail April 27 that other countries "have been less forthcoming about how this would affect their current stocks and it is this lack of confidence about the practical effect of the new protocol that in large part explains the impasse in the current negotiations." He commented that, for "many Oslo supporters the prohibitions...are not far reaching enough" and that there is "a slim chance that a deal could be made to allow adoption of a new protocol."

Mathias argued against critics who say the text does not go far enough. He said, "We have in front of us a text that, while certainly not perfect from any delegation's perspective, clearly would have a major positive humanitarian impact."



U.S. Limits Clusters; Global Efforts Ongoing

Jeff Abramson

The United States in March made permanent a ban on the transfer of nearly all of its cluster munitions, and Congress is considering limitations on the use of the weapons. Internationally, Laos, the world's most cluster-impacted country, ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) as other countries continued discussing a potential alternative agreement within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

On March 11, President Barack Obama signed the fiscal year 2009 omnibus appropriation bill that included a provision to bar U.S. transfer of cluster munitions unless the arms have a 99 percent or higher functioning rate and agreements exist that they will only be used against military targets where civilians are not known to be present. This effectively prohibits the transfer of nearly the entire U.S. arsenal comprised of an estimated 700 million or more submunitions. The law makes permanent what had been only one-year provisions, first included in omnibus legislation for fiscal year 2008.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced bills in February that would bar U.S. use of cluster munitions unless they meet the same guidelines. Similar legislation introduced in the previous Congress failed to win passage. Current U.S. policy requires approval from a combatant commander before cluster munitions that have a failure rate of greater than 1 percent may be used. (See ACT, September 2008.)

Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse over broad areas small submunitions that sometimes fail to explode initially, later injuring or killing military forces and noncombatants. In 2008, 94 countries signed the CCM, which bars the use of nearly all cluster munitions and obligates countries to destroy stockpiles and conduct clearance efforts. (See ACT, January/February 2009.)

At a UN meeting March 18 designed to promote the CCM, Laos announced its ratification of the agreement, bringing the total number of ratifying states to five. Thirty ratifications are needed for the treaty to enter into force. (See ACT, December 2008.)

Laos is the world's most cluster-affected country, suffering from a U.S. bombing campaign that dropped more than 270 million submunitions between 1964 and 1973, with as many as 30 percent of those submunitions failing to explode as intended. Laos has not joined the 1997 Mine Ban Convention, citing difficulties in meeting that treaty's 10-year clearance requirement. The ability of Laos to meet similar cluster munitions timelines, once the treaty enters into force, will be uncertain. The country will likely need to request an extension, as 15 countries did last year when they faced their 10-year clearance deadlines under the Mine Ban Convention. (See ACT, January/February 2009.)

At the UN event, the Democratic Republic of Congo signed the CCM, bringing the total number of signatories to 96. Tunisia signed in January.

Many of the major producers and stockpilers of cluster munitions that have not signed the CCM participated in discussions on the weapons held Feb. 16-20 under the CCW. (See ACT, December 2008.) They are scheduled to meet for the final time April 14-17 in Geneva, but expectations are low that an agreement will be reached within the group.

In the United States, leaders of 67 national organizations called on the Obama administration to review U.S. policy on landmines and cluster munitions. In discussing the new limits passed into law, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who helped write the provision, said, "Like Congress's initiative to ban the export of anti-personnel landmines, this can be a catalyst to prompt a review by the Pentagon of U.S. policy, with a view to rapidly ending the use of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to innocent civilians."

Proposed U.S. Arms Export Agreements From January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2008

March 2009

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

Updated: March 2009

During 2008, the Pentagon notified Congress of an estimated $75.4 billion in proposed, government-to-government, conventional arms transfer agreements with 25 countries, Taiwan, and an international consortium made up of NATO allies together with Sweden and Finland.

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

The proposed 2008 arms sales total was the highest in more than ten years, nearly twice the sums of 2007 ($39 billion) and 2006 ($37 billion) and nearly six times the 2005 total ($12 billion). Eight countries requested more than a billion dollars worth of U.S. arms. They were Australia, Iraq, Israel, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the United Kingdom.

Countries in the Middle East accounted for more than half the total value of proposed sales, with Israel, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates making the three largest requests worldwide. Potential sales to Israel rose from $2.5 billion in 2007 to more than $20 billion in 2008, including a $15.2 billion proposal for up to 75 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and associated equipment. Israel's request for large military craft also included C-130J-30 transport aircraft and and Littoral Combat Ships. Although of lesser monetary value, Israel identified interest in thousands of small diamter bombs, and tens of thousands of anti-tank weapons and training rockets. Iraq's $18.7 billion in possible purchases, up from $4.45 billion in 2007 and $2.25 billion in 2006, included a wide arrange of military items, as well as technical and constuction assistance. Combat-oriented equipment listed in the notifications included M1A1 tanks, light armored vehicles, armed helicopters, Hellfire and other missiles, coastal patrol boats, and more than 100,000 assault rifles. Potential sales to the United Arab Emirates were valued at just more than $9 billion, down from $10.4 billion in 2007. Similar to 2007, the 2008 request included many missile and anti-missile systems, as well as the first foreign sale of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense fire units. Other requests by Middle Eastern states came from Saudi Arabia ($2.86 billion), Turkey ($580 million), Egypt ($564 million), Kuwait ($506 million), Qatar ($400 million), and Jordan ($390 million).

Taiwan's potential purchases of $6.4 billion, nearly twice the 2007 value of $3.72 billion, included hundreds of Patriot missiles, 30 Apache attack helicopters and 1,000 Hellfire missiles. Despite protests by Chinese officials, Congress did not alter this or any of the notified sales in 2008.

For the first time this decade, Romania joined the group of top countries requesting U.S. arms, proposing the purchase and upgrade of dozens of F-16C/D aircraft.

Below are the five countries that sought the highest values in U.S. arms exports in 2008 and some of their specific requests.


Total Value



$20.82 billion

  • 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft with an option to purchase at a later date an additional 50 F-35 CTOL or Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing aircraft
  • 9 C-130J-30 transport aircraft
  • 4 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS-I variant)
  • 3 PATRIOT System Configuration 3 Modification kits to upgrade 3 PATRIOT fire units
  • 1,000 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB1)
  • 28,000 M72A7 66mm Light Anti-Armor Weapons (anti-tank rockers), and 60,000 M72AS 21mm Sub-Caliber Training Rockets.


$18.71 billion

  • 280 M1A1 Abrams, 392 Light Armored Vehicles, 700 M1151 armored gun trucks,
  • 6 C-130J-30 transport aircraft
  • 26 Bell Armed 407 helicopters and engines, 24 Bell Armed 407 helicopters or 24 Boeing AH-6 helicopters and engines
  • 200 AGM-114M HELLFIRE missiles, 15,000 2.75-inch Rockets,
  • 4,000 AN/PVS-7D night vision devices
  • 180,000 M16A4 assault rifles, 25,000 M4 Carbines, 2,550 M203 grenade launchers
  • 20 30-35meter Coastal Patrol Boats and 3 55-60 meter offshore support vessels.

United Arab Emirates

$9.03 billion

  • 3 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Fire Units with 147 THAAD missiles
  • 78 complete AVENGER fire units including Vehicle Mounted Stinger Launch Platform fire units, 780 STINGER-Reprogrammable Micro-Processor Block 1 Anti-Aircraft missiles, and 24 STINGER Block 1 Buy-to-Fly missiles
  • 390 AGM-114N HELLFIRE missiles
  • 288 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) Air Intercept Missiles
  • 4 PATRIOT Advanced Capability (PAC-3) Intercept Aerial Missiles with containers, 19 MIM-104D Guided Enhanced Missiles-T with containers (GEM-T), 5 Anti-Tactical Missiles, and 5 PATRIOT Digital Missiles
  • 14 UH-60M BLACK HAWK helicopters with engines.


$6.46 billion

  • 330 PATRIOT Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missiles
  • 30 AH-64D Block III APACHE Longbow Attack Helicopters
  • 173 STINGER Block I Air-to-Air missiles, 1,000 AGM-114L Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, and 66 M299 HELLFIRE Longbow Missile Launchers
  • 182 JAVELIN guided missile rounds and 20 JAVELIN command launch units
  • 32 UGM-84L Sub-Launched HARPOON Block II missiles, 2 UTM-84L HARPOON Block II Exercise missiles, 2 Advanced HARPOON Weapons Control System (Version 2), 36 HARPOON containers, 2 UTM-84XD Encapsulated HARPOON Certification and Training Vehicles.


$4.50 billion

  • 24 F-16C/D Block 50/52 aircraft with either the F100-PW-229 or F110-GE-129 Increased Performance Engines (IPE) and APG 68(V)9 radars; refurbishment and upgrades of 24 F-16C/D Block 25 aircraft being provided as excess defense articles with the F100-PW- 220 Increased Performance Engines (IPE) and APG-68(V)1 radars.


1. The Department of State is also required to report to Congress any commercial sales it approves of “major defense equipment” that amount to $14 million or more, defense articles and services that equal or exceed $50 million, and any items defined as “significant military equipment.” As in the case of FMS sales, Congress can block the sale with a joint resolution of disapproval within 30 calendar days of notification (15 in the case of NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand). There are no official compilations of commercial agreement data and it is often incomplete and less precise than data on government-to-government transactions (Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1999-2006, Washington, D.C., Congressional Research Service, September 26, 2007, p. 20). The annual Section 655 report, prepared by the State and Defense Departments for Congress, details commercial licenses approved, but states have four years to act under the licenses. The State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls has final responsibility for license applications for commercial defense trade exports and all issues related to defense trade compliance, enforcement, and reporting.

2. Congress approved the higher notification thresholds for NATO members, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand in legislation passed in September 2002. In October 2008, Congress added South Korea to this list.

Sources: Congressional Research Service, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and Department of State.

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Afghan Small Arms Records Incomplete

Jeff Abramson

Several recent U.S. government reports identified significant difficulties in tracking U.S. small arms and light weapons meant for Afghan national forces and an improvement in monitoring such weapons meant for Iraq.

According to a January study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the United States did not maintain complete records for 87,000 of 242,000 U.S.-procured weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The study also found records to be unreliable for 135,000 weapons obtained from 21 other countries for the ANSF.

The report noted that positive corrective actions have been taken recently but that "inadequate U.S. and ANSF staffing at the central depots along with poor security and persistent management challenges have contributed to the vulnerability of stored weapons to theft or misuse."

The report came less than 18 months after a July 2007 GAO study found that the Department of Defense could not fully account for at least 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi forces in 2004 and 2005. (See ACT, September 2007.) That and other reports, combined with concerns that U.S.-supplied weapons might be used against U.S. forces, contributed to the passage of a congressional mandate for new tracking requirements for Iraq-bound weapons. (See ACT, January/February 2008.)

A December 2008 report by the Defense Department's inspector general found that significant improvements had been made in Iraq but identified continuing problems, including inadequate accounting for nearly 60,000 weapons seized from insurgents and stored at depots in the country.

Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform national security and foreign affairs subcommittee, noted during a subcommittee hearing Feb. 12 that "what GAO uncovered is disturbing." In highlighting congressional action in regard to weapons meant for Iraqi forces, he said, "[o]ur hope was that lessons learned in that conflict would inform policies in other conflicts."

As the Obama administration calls for a reduction of forces in Iraq and an increase in Afghanistan, operations in that country are bound to draw greater scrutiny. In promising "sustained and constructive oversight," Tierney raised the possibility of U.S. forces dying "at the hands of an insurgent using a weapon purchased by U.S. taxpayers" and said that "this is just too important not to get right."

Several recent U.S. government reports identified significant difficulties in tracking U.S. small arms and light weapons meant for Afghan national forces and an improvement in monitoring such weapons meant for Iraq.

According to a January study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the United States did not maintain complete records for 87,000 of 242,000 U.S.-procured weapons for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The study also found records to be unreliable for 135,000 weapons obtained from 21 other countries for the ANSF. (Continue)


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