After World War I, intense efforts were made to translate the 1874
Brussels Declaration and the subsequent Hague Conventions into a ban on
chemical weapons and "the use of projectiles, the sole object of
which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases."
Although a total ban is still to be attained, one of the first
achievements, in 1925, was the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use
in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological
Methods of Warfare, generally referred to as the Geneva Protocol. It
bans "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases
and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices," as well as
"the use of bacteriological methods of warfare." The
Geneva Protocol, with 133 states parties in 2000, is the point of
departure in current efforts toward a ban on the production, possession,
and stockpiling of chemical weapons and helped establish the convention
banning bacteriological weapons in 1972 (see below).
Concerted efforts by the UN and by governments since 1945 at both the
multilateral and bilateral levels, as well as on a regional basis, have
led to a body of important agreements, treaties, and conventions
committing their parties to various arms limitation and disarmament
measures. The multilateral instruments concluded so far are given below
(the number of states parties is shown in parentheses after each title).
(44) provides for the demilitarization of Antarctica and is the first
treaty to put into practice the concept of the nuclear-weapon-free
zone, later applied to Latin America and the South Pacific, as well as
to the seabed and outer space. It prohibits any military maneuvers,
weapon tests, building of installations, or disposal of radioactive
wastes in the Antarctic region.
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer
Space and Under Water
(Partial Test-Ban Treaty) (124) bans all nuclear weapon tests in the
three environments designated but does not ban underground tests.
Since 1963, the General Assembly has repeatedly urged conclusion of a
comprehensive treaty banning all nuclear tests, including those
Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the
Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other
(Outer-Space Treaty)(96) bans nuclear and other weapons of mass
destruction from the earth's orbit and prohibits the military
use of celestial bodies and the placing of such weapons on those
Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America
(Treaty of Tlatelolco) (38) creates the first nuclear-weapon-free
zone in a densely populated area and is the first arms-limitation
agreement to provide for control and verification by an international
organization, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in
Latin America, as well as through the safeguards system of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
(Non-Proliferation Treaty) (187) aims at preventing the spread of
nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon states, at guaranteeing all
countries access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and at
promoting the process of nuclear disarmament. The treaty defines a
nuclear-weapon state as one that had manufactured and exploded a
nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January
1967. With the broadest adherence of all treaties, it has helped so
far to maintain the number of nuclear-weapon states at five.
Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and
Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor
and in the Subsoil Thereof
(Sea-Bed Treaty) (92) bans the placement of nuclear and other weapons
of mass destruction and facilities for such weapons on or under the
seabed outside a 12-mile coastal zone.
Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and
Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on
(144) is the first international agreement providing for actual
disarmament, that is, the destruction of existing weapons.
Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use
of Environmental Modification Techniques
(68) prohibits the use of techniques that would have widespread,
long-lasting, or severe effects in causing such phenomena as
earthquakes, tidal waves, and changes in weather and climate patterns.
Agreement Governing Activities of States on the Moon and Other
(9) goes further than the 1967 Outer-Space Treaty in prohibiting the
use of the moon and other celestial bodies for military purposes.
Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain
Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious
or to Have Indiscriminate Effects
(90) restricts or prohibits the use of mines and booby traps,
incendiary weapons, and fragments not readily detectable in the human
body. These rules range from a complete ban on the use of such weapons
to restrictions on their use in conditions that would cause incidental
loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects.
South Pacific Nuclear-Free-Zone Treaty
(Treaty of Raratonga) (16), exemplifies a positive regional
limitation measure. Its geographical limits are contiguous with those
of the two other major zonal treaties, the Treaty of Tlatelolco and
the Antarctic Treaty, the three instruments covering a significant
portion of the earth's surface.
Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
(CFE Treaty) (30), was a considerable post-Cold War breakthrough
achieved at a summit meeting of the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). It was adopted in Paris in November
1990. The treaty entered into force on 9 November 1992, after it was
signed by the original 22 participating states, joined by seven of the
new republics formed from the former Soviet Union. It established
limits for five categories of weapons within its area of application,
which stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals. Chosen for limitation
were those categories of weapons systems that would eliminate
disparities in force levels and the capability of launching surprise
attack or large-scale offensives. The treaty was the first in Europe
to provide for the actual reduction of conventional weapons. As called
for in the treaty, negotiations among the states party to the CFE
Treaty soon began, aimed at limiting the personnel strength of armed
forces. Known as the
, it was signed in July 1992 at the summit meeting of the CSCE at
Treaty on Open Skies
(23) establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over
the entire territory of its participants. The Open Sky Treaty is the
most wide-ranging international effort to date to promote openness and
transparency of military forces and activities. The treaty entered
into force in 2002.
Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production,
Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and their Destruction
(Chemical Weapons Convention) (147), is the first disarmament
agreement that would eliminate an entire category of weapons. Such
chemical weapons exist in large quantities, are possessed by many
countries, and have been used in combat even in recent years. The
convention was ratified by 65 countries and entered into force on 29
Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty
(Treaty of Bangkok) (9) bans the research, development, manufacture,
stockpiling, acquisition, possession or control over any nuclear
explosive device by any means in Southeast Asia.
African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty
(Pelindaba Treaty) (13) establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone on the
continent of Africa and all island states considered by the former
Organization of African Unity to be part of Africa.
Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty
(CTBT Treaty) (96) goes further than the 1963 Partial Test-Ban Treaty
in that it prohibits any nuclear explosion whether for weapons or
Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production
and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction
(Mine-Ban Convention) (130) bans the use and development of
anti-personnel mines, and commits states to destroy them.
Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and
Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related
(Inter-American Convention)(10) was spearheaded by the member states
of the Organization of American States to address the problem of
illicit firearms trafficking, including ammunition, bombs, grenades,
rockets, rocket launchers, missiles, and missile systems.
Over the same period, bilateral negotiations between the USSR/Russian
Federation and the United States have produced a number of agreements
between the two powers, including those described below.
Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems
(ABM Treaty and part of the SALT I agreements) restricts in general
the development of sea-based, air-based, space-based, or mobile
land-based antiballistic missile (ABM) systems and specifically limits
development of ABM systems to two sites with no more than 100
launchers each. By a protocol of 1974, the deployment of ABM systems
is further limited to a single area, with no more than 100 launchers.
On 13 June 2002, the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty in
order to pursue the development of missile defenses that would have
been banned by the agreement.
Interim Agreement on Certain Measures with Respect to the Limitation
of Strategic Offensive Arms
(commonly regarded as SALT I) establishes limitations for a five-year
period—with a provision for extension—on the number of
launchers of strategic weapons.
Under the 1973
Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War,
the two parties agree to make the removal of the danger of nuclear
war and of the use of nuclear weapons an objective of their policies
and to make all efforts toward guaranteeing stability and peace.
Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear-Weapon Tests
(Threshold Test-Ban Treaty) establishes a nuclear threshold by
prohibiting underground nuclear-weapon tests having a yield exceeding
Treaty on Underground Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes
prohibits the carrying out of any individual nuclear explosion for
peaceful purposes having a yield exceeding 150 kilotons or any group
explosion with an aggregate yield exceeding 1,500 kilotons, and it
includes on-site verification procedures.
Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms
(SALT II) establishes limits on the number and types of strategic
nuclear-delivery vehicles (launchers and bombers) to 2,400 on each
side. The treaty also set limits on the numbers of MIRVed launchers.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan announced that the United States
would no longer be bound by the SALT II limits because of Soviet
violations of its arms control commitments.
Treaty between the Two States on the Elimination of Their
Intermediate Range and Shorter-Range Missiles
(INF Treaty) provides for the elimination of an entire class of
nuclear weapons with a range between 55 and 5,500 kilometers (3,410
miles). The treaty entered into force on 1 June 1988 and its
provisions were implemented before the 1 June 1991 date set by the
Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms
(START Treaty) places limits on the two sides' strategic
nuclear forces, i.e., inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
This treaty established an unprecedented reduction of 35% to 40% of
the states' overall nuclear forces at the time and created an
elaborate system for verification of compliance. Through the Lisbon
Protocol signed in 1992, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia
became parties to START I as successor states to the Soviet Union.
Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive
(START II), once implemented, was to bring about deep reductions in
the overall levels of ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles
(SLBMs), nuclear armed heavy bombers and nuclear air-launched cruise
missiles (ACLMs). The United States and Russia ratified START II in
1996 and 2000, respectively, although Russia made entry into force
conditional on U.S. Senate consent to ratification of the 1997
protocol and approval of two Agreed Statements outlining limits on the
testing of theater missile defense (TMD) systems. On 14 June 2002, one
day after the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty, Russia announced that
it would no longer consider itself to be bound by START II provisions.
Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions
(SORT) (commonly referred to as the Treaty of Moscow) states that
both the United States and Russia will reduce their numbers of
operationally deployed nuclear warheads to between 1,700–2,200
within ten years. It establishes a Bilateral Implementation
Commission, scheduled to meet at least twice a year, to discuss and
review the treaty's implementation. The document does not
require the destruction of strategic delivery systems, specify what is
to be done with the warheads once they have been removed from
launchers, or constrain the development of ballistic missile defenses.