Arms Regulation and Disarmament - Main achievements





Multilateral Agreements

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).

  • The 1959 Antarctic Treaty (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.
  • The 1963 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 conducted underground.
  • The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (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 bodies.
  • The 1967 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).
  • The 1968 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.
  • The 1971 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.
  • The 1972 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (144) is the first international agreement providing for actual disarmament, that is, the destruction of existing weapons.
  • The 1977 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.
  • The 1979 Agreement Governing Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (9) goes further than the 1967 Outer-Space Treaty in prohibiting the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for military purposes.
  • The 1981 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.
  • The 1985 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.
  • The 1990 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 CFE-1A Agreement , it was signed in July 1992 at the summit meeting of the CSCE at Helsinki.
  • The 1992 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.
  • The 1993 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 April 1997.
  • The 1995 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.
  • The 1996 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.
  • The 1996 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 peaceful purposes.
  • The 1997 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.
  • The 1997 Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (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.

Bilateral Agreements

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.

  • The 1972 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.
  • The 1972 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.
  • The 1974 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 150 kilotons.
  • The 1976 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.
  • The 1979 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.
  • The 1987 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.
  • The 1991 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.
  • The 1993 Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (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.
  • The 2002 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.


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