2021 - REVISED DRAFT REPORT - INTERNATIONAL ARMS CONTROL: CHALLENGES AHEAD

Cedric PERRIN (France)

10 September 2021

In the past two decades, the United States, Russia, and China have developed diverging perceptions of the international security environment. At the US-Russia bilateral level, this has become increasingly evident through the collapse of important arms control agreements in recent years – most notably the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. In February 2021, the only remaining nuclear arms control agreement between the two powers, New START, was renewed only two days before its expiration. Remaining arms control agreements are under considerable strain. This is largely due to Russian direct violation or selective implementation of its arms control obligations, and Chinese disinterest to engage in meaningful arms control negotiations.  

This report outlines key considerations as Allies seek to maintain and further an international arms control regime built on reciprocal transparency, meaningful confidence-building measures, and solid verification. The core premise of the report is straightforward: arms control supports Allied security but is under severe strain from several forces, which NATO member states must confront. These forces are threefold. First, nuclear weapons states outside the Alliance – especially Russia and China – are developing new nuclear weapons systems that upset strategic stability. Second, the risk of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation is greater today than at any point since the signing of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), increasing the prospects of nuclear proliferation to new and potentially malign actors. Finally, emerging and disruptive technologies (EDT) are increasingly undermining the fundamentals of nuclear deterrence, deepening uncertainty in ways antithetical to arms control. Taken together, these challenges undercut the mutual trust required for effective arms control agreements and, if left unaddressed, could fuel a dangerous arms race.   

Parliamentarians possess some valuable tools to support NATO governments in confronting these challenges. Their efforts can help foster a shared perspective on the mutual security benefits arms control offers. As legislators across the Alliance’s 30 nations, parliamentarians can advocate for arms control negotiations, build public support, and enact effective legal frameworks. In addition, as delegates to international institutions, NATO parliamentarians can work together for the establishment of norms and standards for the implementation of EDTs in nuclear systems. As the report concludes, the forces militating against arms control are stronger than they have been in decades, but there remain opportunities that the Allies can and must exploit to restore arms control as a strong and effective pillar of Euro-Atlantic, and even global, security well into the future.   

This draft report will be presented and discussed by the Defence and Security Committee for adoption at the Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

 


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