Monday, February 11, 2008

Ivanov on Globalizing Nuclear Arms Control Law

David Rising of the Associated Press reports that Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said on February 10, 2008 that Russia and the United States should replace the bilateral arms control agreements of the Cold War and that the time has come
"to open this framework for all leading states interested in cooperation in order to ensure overall security."
Ivanov’s remarks align with recent British statements about the widening of the nuclear arms control process made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Secretary of State for Defense Des Browne, and former Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket.

Widening the process of negotiated and effectively verified reduction in nuclear weapons to additional states supports compliance with the shared Article VI obligation of all states parties to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to:
“pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
While some non-nuclear weapons states parties to the NPT have a tradition of taking this obligation seriously, greater engagement and political capital is needed from many states to respond effectively to the increasingly diffuse danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons and related technologies. The new dangers of an increasingly confusing multipolar balance of nuclear weapons capabilities and transnational proliferation rings argue strongly for more international legal constraints agreed among more players. Clear international legal rules are needed in response to these contemporary challenges, Ivanov emphasizes:
"It is imperative to ensure that the provisions of such a regime should be legally binding so that, in due course, it would really become possible to shift to the control over nuclear weapons and the process of their gradual reduction on a multilateral basis.”
While the Bush Administration has preferred its disarmament policy to be unilateral and informal, the fact that both the United Kingdom and Russia have explicitly opened the door to multilateralization of nuclear disarmament negotiations suggests that next steps might be contemplated even while the United States remains disengaged from the process. United States should be preparing now to play a leadership role toward a future regime for the control of nuclear weapons that is legally binding, effectively verified, and multilateral. Watching from the sidelines, we endanger both national and global security by not reflecting our specific perspective, capabilities, and requirements into a process that shows clear signs of both widening and moving forward.

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