The 2013 Arms Control Compliance Report issued by the State Department on July 12 showed little change in the assessments of U.S.-Russian arms control treaty compliance provided by last year’s report.
Covering the period ending on December 31, 2012, the report provided no obvious basis for the conclusion rendered in a recent amendment adopted by the House Armed Services Committee that Russia was “in active noncompliance with existing nuclear arms obligations.” The vague public charge made by the House Committee appears to be a reference to more specific allegations in a June 24 news report citing a missile recently tested by Russia as an Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty violation. Yet neither the Compliance Report nor the “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat” assessment released last week by the Pentagon identify any Russian INF missiles.
With regard to the INF Treaty, the 2013 Compliance Report registers no issues of concern during the reporting period. The July 2013 Missile Threat report says explicitly that “neither Russia nor the United States produce or retain any MRBM or IRBM systems…” Moreover, this report from Defense Department intelligence agencies covers missiles under development, as well as those deployed, so it would therefore be expected to list any INF-category missile that had been observed in flight tests.
With regard to New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the 2013 Compliance Report certifies that Russia is in full compliance with the terms of the treaty. As in the case of every previous U.S.-Soviet or U.S.-Russian nuclear limitation treaty, implementation-related questions have been raised by both sides in the designated commission for discussing these issues, according to the report, and discussions were ongoing.
The 2013 report identifies four concerns, two of them new, regarding Russia’s fulfillment of its obligations under the Open Skies Treaty. This treaty establishes a regime for conducting unarmed observation flights by States Parties over the territories of other States Parties. Specifically, Russia has imposed: 1) restrictions on access by Open Skies aircraft to three areas: over Chechnya; in an air traffic control zone around Moscow; and along the border of Russia with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two regions of Georgia that only Russia recognizes as independent countries; 2) air traffic control restrictions around Moscow that prevented flights or flight segments from taking place; 3) airfield closures in support of holidays. Russia has also failed to provide a first generation duplicate negative of processed photographic film. Only the latter concern appears headed toward resolution, anticipating that Russia’s future use of digital cameras will eliminate the need for negatives.
The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) section raises concerns about compliance with a number of countries, but conclusions are usually tentative or qualified. For example, “It remains unclear if Russia has fulfilled its obligations under Article II…” and “Syria may be engaged in activities that would violate its obligations under the BWC if it were a State Party to the Convention.” These constructions are not surprising given the absence of a verification mechanism for the treaty.
As in last year’s report, the United States assesses that Russia’s Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) declaration is incomplete with respect to chemical agent and weapons stockpiles. In the absence of additional information from Russia, the United States is unable to ascertain whether Russia has declared all of its CW stockpile, all CW development and production facilities. Both the United States and Russia were unable to meet the convention’s deadlines for eliminating CW stockpiles and facilities. In the “U.S. Compliance” section of the 2013 report, the authors artfully report only that the United States “continues to work towards meeting its CWC obligations with respect to the destruction of chemical weapons (CW) and associated CW facilities.”
Although the vast majority of states parties to arms control agreements are said to be complying with their commitments, North Korea, Iran, and Syria are conspicuous for multiple instances of noncompliance.
As in last year’s report, the 2013 report again found North Korea to be in violation of its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in noncompliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement before its announced withdrawal from the NPT in 2003. North Korea’s continued nuclear program development was judged to be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and of Pyongyang’s commitments under the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.
Iran and Syria were said to be in violation of their obligations under the NPT and their IAEA Safeguards Agreements. As before, Iran was also cited for violating its obligations under relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
In light of the U.S. assessment that Syria has used nerve gases against its domestic opposition in recent months, it is worth mentioning that Syria is not a party to the CWC, which prohibits such use. Moreover, although Syria is a party to the 1925 Protocol Against the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, that treaty does not prohibit use of chemical weapons within a state’s own borders in a civil conflict. The Syrian case provides a dramatic reminder that absent arms control treaties and their verification mechanisms, the prospects for deterring, detecting and reversing behaviors unacceptable to the international community are much diminished.
The concern expressed in last year’s report about Burma’s compliance with the NPT has eased. The 2013 report notes that Burma announced in November 2012 that it agreed to sign on to more intrusive IAEA inspection procedures, such as the Additional Protocol and that it would abide by certain UN Security Council resolutions on nonproliferation.
The Compliance Report provides not only an important snapshot of contemporary issues regarding the implementation of arms control agreements; it also supplies a valuable measure of progress over time and relative performance between States Parties. Furthermore, reviewing its contents offers a reminder that adequate verification provisions and consultative mechanisms are prerequisite to meaningful monitoring and resolution of compliance issues.