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Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

This LibGuide is intended to provide a few starting points to assist you with your research on issues related to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, in particular within the NATO context.


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“NATO seeks its security at the lowest possible level of forces. Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation contribute to peace, security and stability, and should ensure undiminished security for all Alliance members.” (Strategic Concept 2010 - 19 November 2010).

"NATO is committed to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, it will remain a nuclear alliance." (NATO Topic page on "NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy and forces" - 3 December 2015).

"Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation have been an important aspect of NATO’s agenda since the Cold War. As part of the 1967 Harmel Report on the Future Tasks of the Alliance, NATO Allies formally recognised the importance of negotiations to improve the climate of East-West relations, including talks on disarmament. At the same time, Allies agreed to develop the necessary military capabilities to deter aggression." (2016 Secretary General's Annual Report  - 13 March 2017).

Recommended Reading on NATO and Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

"For almost 70 years, NATO has been committed to preserving peace in Europe and to controlling the proliferation and number of nuclear weapons. Even before NATO established its first nuclear weapons policy in 1954, the North Atlantic Council in 1953 endorsed the US efforts to “seek a solution to the problem of atomic armaments.” (NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller: ''NATO’s enduring commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty'', 5 May 2017)

Within NATO, there are a number of forums in which discussions on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation take place (Source: 2016 Secretary General's Annual Report):

- the High-Level Task Force on Conventional Arms Control sets arms control policy;

- the Committee on Proliferation meets in political-military and defence formats to discuss WMD non-proliferation efforts and defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats;

- the Special Advisory and Consultative Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Committee  is a forum for discussion of strategic stability and nuclear transparency. NATO allies agreed to establish such committee at the Chicago Summit in 2012, where the NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) was agreed.

NATO’s work in relation to arms control and non-proliferation is supported by a number of NATO-accredited national entities. The Joint CBRN Defence Centre of Excellence in Vyškovin the Czech Republic, created in 2006, is one of them. (Source: 2016 Secretary General's Annual Report).

A selection of early NATO's milestones:

"A State concludes a disarmament treaty and reduces or regulates its armament on the premise that other States would do the same. Thus, the basis of a disarmament treaty can be described as reciprocity." (Source: "Suspension of Certain Obligations of the CFE Treaty by NATO Allies: Examination of the Response to the 2007 Unilateral Treaty Suspension by Russia" by M. Hayashi, in Journal of Conflict and Security Law, vol. 18, no. 1, April 2013).

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A Selection of NATO News

Preventing WMD proliferation: NATO's engagement with its global partners: Speech by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow at the eleventh annual NATO conference on WMD arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation - Doha, Qatar (2 March 2015). In this speech, Ambassador Vershbow also said that "the [Ukraine] conflict also has a WMD dimension.  Russia has stepped up its nuclear exercises and integrated a nuclear component into conventional exercises".

In 2015, NATO’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-Proliferation Centre (WMDC) celebrated its 15th anniversary, stepping up its activities to respond to the new terrorist threats ("Fighting weapons of terror", NATO News, 4 September 2015).

On 9 May 2016, NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow opened the twelfth annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-proliferation in Ljubljana (Slovenia), calling for efforts to strengthen non-proliferation regime. (Source: NATO, 9 May 2016)

At Warsaw in July 2016, the Alliance set out clear positions on the issues of nuclear deterrence and nuclear disarmament. Allies also reaffirmed their strong support for arms control and their commitment to preserve,strengthen, and modernise conventional arms control in Europe. (Source: The Secretary General 2016 Report). 

In 2016, the NATO Committee on Proliferation met more than ten times in various formats to discuss WMD/CBRN risks and threats, the implementation of the 2009 NATO comprehensive strategic-level policy on WMD/CBRN and to develop policy guidance for NATO’s responses to proliferation. The Committee also held partner meetings with Finland, Israel and Sweden on WMD proliferation issues and on recent developments in the non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament field in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly framework. (Source:The Secretary General 2016 Report). 

During 2016, NATO met in the High-Level Task Force on Conventional Arms Control format four times, and 15 times in subordinate committees. These discussions were not always limited to NATO members: in 2016, NATO also consulted partners such as Finland, Georgia and Sweden on arms control matters. (Source:The Secretary General 2016 Report).

NATO welcomes 20th anniversary of Chemical Weapons Convention (2 May 2017).

NATO and Partners to discuss Weapons of Mass Destruction Non-proliferation and Arms Control in Helsinki (17 May 2017)

On 29 and 30 May 2017, Finland hosted the 13th Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non-proliferation. Topics of discussion included chemical weapons use in Syria, North Korean nuclear and missile proliferation, and the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations. (NATO: Finland hosts annual NATO conference on proliferation challenges).

In May 2017, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller made a visit to Austria with a lectureat the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP). Addressing a seminar on ‘NATO’s Enduring Commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty’, Ms. Gottemoeller outlined the Alliance’s efforts to preserve peace, limit proliferation and reduce the number of nuclear weapons." (Sources: NATO, 9 May 2017 and ''NATO’s enduring commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty'' by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller).

Countries meeting at a United Nations conference in New York adopted on 7 July 2017 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (UN Document A/CONF.229/2017/8), the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years.

"As Allies committed to advancing security through deterrence, defence, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, we, the Allied nations, cannot support the [Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons ]" stated the North Atlantic Council on 20 September 2017.

"As part of NATO Allies’ ongoing commitment to transparency, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are hosting Russian arms control inspectors" (9 November 2017)

Estonia hosted Russian arms control inspectors, demonstrating Allies’ ongoing commitment to transparency (NATO Allies host Russian arms control inspectors, 13 March 2018).

Since violence broke out in Crimea (beginning of March 2014), the NATO-Russia relations plunged to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. On 23 June 2014, during the 10th Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control, disarmament and non-proliferation, the NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Vershbow stressed importance of transparency in arms control and disarmament and called the participants to seize the discussions in this forum as an unique opportunity to shape the global non-proliferation and disarmament agendas, and to take them forward. (Source; NATO, 2014).

The United States officially charged Russia with violating the INF Treaty in July 2014, when the State Department released the 2014 edition of its report Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (the Compliance Report).

The tenth Annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-proliferation, one of NATO’s largest outreach activities involving Alliance member states and partners from around the world, took place in the Swiss town of Interlaken on 23 and 24 June 2014 (Source; 1 July 2014). On this occasion, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow expressed some remarks.

On 20 November 2013, the Special Coordinator of the United Nations-Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ms. Sigrid Kaag briefed the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) on the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria.(NATO source);

As part of Allied overall efforts against proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), NATO’s 2012 International Partners’ Outreach Event of the NATO Committee on Proliferation in Defence format (CP (D)) took place in Riga, Latvia, from 20 to 22 March 2012. To provide a broader and scientific view on issues related to countering WMD Threats in Maritime Environment, a NATO Science for Peace and Security Advanced Research Workshop was organised back-to-back with an Industries Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Defence Exhibition under the joint title “Countering WMD Threats in Maritime Environment - Development of Technologies and Modelling of Risks”. Both events were co-organised by CP(D) Co- chairs Latvia and the United States, and Sweden as a partner nation. (Source; NATO, 2012)

The Annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-proliferation, hosted this year by the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was opened in Budapest on 14 June. For the eighth time, this landmark non-proliferation event brought together senior officials from countries on five continents as well as from international organizations and academic institutions. (Source; NATO, 2012)

The NATO Deterrence and Defence Posture Review (DDPR) was agreed at the Chicago Summit in 2012 (20 May 2012).

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