By Daniel Painter, Research Assistant, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme
Twenty-five years after the signing of a landmark nuclear-arms agreement between the US and the Soviet Union, the world is facing a new atomic-weapons race in South Asia, where similar controls would be useful.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty inked by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on 8 December 1987 was the first such agreement to eliminate entire weapon systems, rather than to merely limit the size of nuclear arsenals. India and Pakistan, which both continue to increase their nuclear arsenals, have not engaged in arms-control negotiations. If they were, however, an INF-style agreement would be a good first step towards stabilising the region.
By Jessica Delaney, Assistant editor, Strategic Comments
Weapons are flowing across the Sahel from Libya, and from Iran and China to countries such as Sudan, as a new form of arms trade takes shape in Africa. Speaking at the IISS recently, expert James Bevan explained that a predominantly ‘home-grown’ illicit trade had arisen, in which weapons were passed from governments to rebel groups, stolen from armed forces or trafficked by individuals as states collapsed.
This was a very different picture from that during the 1990s and early twenty-first century, when failing Eastern European states supplied cash-rich warlords involved in conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Libya joined the emerging hubs of weapons sales after the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in 2011. Other hubs included the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
In July, officials will gather in New York to negotiate the terms of a treaty covering the trade in international arms. Alan Duncan, UK Minister for International Development, today presented the case for the treaty to be as robust as possible. He said that while it was recognised compromises might be needed in order to obtain agreement, the UK was going for ‘the full laundry list’.
Duncan told the IISS in London that the uncontrolled flow of weapons across borders caused millions of deaths in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Darfur region of Sudan. Imported small arms and light weapons accounted for the vast majority of deaths in such conflicts. Conflict, in turn, prevented development, because health systems and education could not flourish against the background of armed violence. Yet some countries had no arms trade regulations at all, and there were no common international standards.
The United Kingdom would argue for the treaty to be broad in scope, covering everything from fighter jets to ammunition. While some countries opposed the inclusion of small arms, Duncan said that ‘leaving them out would be an act of negligence’. The treaty needed to mandate detailed national reports of arms exports. It should also address the issue of corruption, by establishing a register of brokers; and it should seek to ensure that arms sales would not damage human rights and would meet criteria for sustainable development. Agreement would represent a quantum leap from the present state of affairs, he said.