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

Cedric PERRIN (France)

23 April 2021

Over the past two decades, the United States, Russia, and China’s have developed diverging perceptions of the international security environment, perceptions that have inadvertently motivated the successive abrogation of multiple arms control agreements. In February 2021, the final nuclear arms control agreement between the US and Russia, New START, was rescued just two days before its expiration. To strengthen arms control as an instrument of Allied security beyond New START, NATO member states must confront the forces militating against arms control and foster a shared perspective on the mutual security benefits it offers. 
 
NATO Allies face three principal challenges to future arms control agreements. First, nuclear weapons states outside the Alliance – especially Russia and China – are developing new, destabilising nuclear weapons systems. Second, the risk of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation is greater now than it has been at any point since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968, with proliferation cascades looming in two particularly volatile security regions, East Asia and the Middle East. Finally, emerging and disruptive technologies (EDT) like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems impose significant uncertainty regarding the fundamentals of nuclear deterrence. These challenges increase the complexity of future negotiations, significantly undercutting the mutual trust required for effective arms control.  
 
Still, parliamentarians possess powerful tools to combat these challenges and reorient the international community's focus toward arms control once again. As legislators across the Alliance’s 30 nations, parliamentarians can advocate for arms control negotiations, build public support, and help enact effective legal frameworks to help ensure implementation. As the custodians of their respective nations’ finances, parliamentarians – and especially those representing the Alliance’s nuclear powers – can moderate the intensity of deleterious arms racing. Finally, as delegates to international institutions, NATO parliamentarians can work together for the establishment of norms and standards for the implementation of EDTs like AI in nuclear systems – and especially in the emerging domains of cyber and space.  


This preliminary draft report will be discussed by the Defence and Security Committee (DSC) at the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.


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