Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
Back to the Acronym home page
British Policy
South Asia
About Acronym

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 53, December 2000 - January 2001

CD Begins New Year at High Level, but with Low Expectations

By Jenni Rissanen

Having taken over the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) at the beginning of the year, Ambassador Christopher Westdal (Canada) declared open the CD's 2001 session on January 23. Major policy statements from the Foreign Minister of Russia, Igor Ivanov, and the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Inam ul Haque, focussed on US plans for national missile defence (NMD) and nuclear relations in South Asia, thereby staking out territory in two of the difficult political issues that have played an increasingly important role in the CD's four-year deadlock. As early discussion clearly showed, they are likely to dominate arms control and non-proliferation considerations over the next year as well. Proceedings in the opening two weeks offered little hope for an early resolution of the deadlock over the programme of work, which has kept the CD from launching negotiations on further multilateral disarmament instruments since the conclusion of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a message delivered by the CD Secretary-General, Vladimir Petrovsky, urged the Conference to put to use its "many intellectual and political resources" and overcome "the disturbing lack of political will". Last year, despite achievements in the field of disarmament such as the adoption of a substantive Final Document at the NPT Review Conference, the CD suffered from stalemate, which indicated that it has been "unable to live up to its full potential." Annan called for "a necessary degree of harmony among the main players" in order to attain a political climate conducive to the full and effective use of the CD.1

Work Programme and Agenda

Making reference to an August 2000 proposal from the then CD President, Ambassador Celso Amorim (Brazil), Westdal said that during his consultations he "found confirmation of the value invested in CD/1624". Amorim's proposal, which enjoyed the support of most countries in the CD, recommended the establishment of four ad hoc committees: one each to "deal with" nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and two others, one with a specific mandate based on the 1995 agreement to ban the production of fissile material (fissban) and the other with a more general mandate to negotiate on negative security assurances (NSA).2 Westdal, who has engaged in what one diplomat described as "heroic efforts" to narrow down the existing differences of view on the programme of work, including consulting officials in Washington, London, Beijing, Paris and Moscow, noted that several countries still had reservations and problems with the proposal. Nevertheless, he believed that it remained the best option available and that its virtues were "considerable", providing scope for profound exploration, discussion and negotiation, as well as drawing attention to the CD and enhancing its value as a platform for negotiations.

Westdal also raised concerns that the speakers lists for the CD plenaries were getting shorter, worrying about the kind of signal that sent, and urging all countries to use the plenary sessions to express their views.3 Britain's Ambassador, Ian Soutar, took the floor to give his country's expectations. Soutar considered that significant progress had been made last year with respect to the programme of work that had culminated in the Amorim proposal. He said that the Fissile Materials Cut Off Treaty (FMCT)4 remained Britain's priority, as "there can be no progress on nuclear disarmament without progress on an FMCT". Soutar recognised that for others nuclear disarmament was the top priority and said that Britain was ready to enter into discussions on the topic, suggesting that the proposed ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament could address verification. Soutar did not believe that PAROS was ripe for negotiations, a view held strongly by the United States, but said Britain was nevertheless ready to discuss the issue in the CD.5 The outgoing South-Korean Ambassador, Man-Soon Chang, said he shared Westdal's and Soutar's judgement that Amorim's proposal remained the best option to date.6

In the first plenary, the CD adopted an agenda identical to last year. However, following a suggestion by Germany, the decision on the agenda was modified. Germany, who has argued that the agenda had lost all practical significance and was outdated, suggested that the wording in the decision be changed to allow for the consideration of the review of the agenda (new wording marked in bold below). Last year, Ambassador Günther Seibert questioned the practice of having to adopt a programme of work before being able to enter into any substantive discussion on the items in the agenda, arguing that this had no basis in the rules of procedure and created an artificial procedural obstacle which prevented the CD from dealing with any of the topics on its agenda. Moreover, Seibert felt the agenda was outdated as it did not contain items such as the FMCT and anti-personnel landmines (APL).7

CD Agenda, adopted January 23, 2001:

Taking into account, inter alia, the relevant provisions of the Final Document of the First Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, and deciding to resume its consultations on the review of its agenda, and without prejudice to their outcome, the Conference adopts the following agenda for its 2001 session:

1. Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament.

2. Prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters.

3. Prevention of an arms race in outer space.

4. Effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the threat of nuclear weapons.

5. New types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons.

6. Comprehensive programme of disarmament.

7. Transparency in armaments.

8. Consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Focus on NMD

Russia and Pakistan opened the new year with a high-level presence. Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, and Pakistan's Foreign Secretary, Inam ul Haque, both came to the CD with a message (to the United States) on ballistic missile defence (BMD), warning about the potential consequences for international security and arms control and disarmament.

Speaking at the CD just days before the new US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was due to visit the Munich Conference on Security Policy to try to defuse European concerns about US NMD plans, Russia's Foreign Minister Ivanov gave the clear message that no "single State, even the most powerful one in economic and [military] terms, can find responses to new [security] challenges... All attempts to create isolated islets of well-being and stability in today's world are illusory and, in our view, doomed to failure". Linking the oft-heard buzzword 'globalization' with disarmament, Ivanov said that "the era of globalization urgently calls for an integrated and multilateral approach to disarmament problems". Ivanov reiterated Russia's well-known stance on the preservation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and emphasised the package of "constructive, political and diplomatic measures" that Russia has offered as an alternative to NMD, including deeper cuts in strategic arsenals to below 1,500 warheads, creation of a Missile Launch Data Exchange Centre, the establishment of a Global Control System for the Non-Proliferation of Missiles and Missile Technology (GCS) and international cooperation on theatre missile defence (TMD). Ivanov called for meaningful dialogue with the new US administration on these issues "as soon as possible". Ivanov said Russia supported the establishment in the CD of a nuclear disarmament body "with an exploratory mandate for broad discussions" and that it was time to re-establish the FMCT committee. Furthermore, it was time to create a reliable, international, legal "safety-net" to prevent the weaponisation of outer space.8

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Inam ul Haque welcomed the new administration's assumption of office, believing that President Bush's "external and defence affairs have been entrusted to people with vast experience and proven capability" whose decisions and actions will have major implications for arms control and disarmament as well as the CD. Speaking directly on one of President Bush's election platform topics, however, Inam ul Haque argued that "missile defences, both NMD and TMD, could...heighten tensions between major powers, jeopardize the global strategic balance and turn back the disarmament clock".

Inam ul Haque called for a thorough and inclusive debate on BMD that addressed: (i) the thousands of long-, medium- and short-range missiles deployed by the major powers and their allies, including the 2,500 strategic nuclear warheads still deployed by the US and Russia, calling on them to de-activate and de-alert these weapons and to proceed to deeper cuts; (ii) the underlying causes for the acquisition of missiles in other parts of the world; and (iii) the qualitative improvement and quantitative deployment of offensive missiles that the introduction of anti-ballistic missile systems into the military equation is likely to lead to. He rejected "restricted forums with one dimensional agendas, like the MTCR [Missile Technology Control Regime]" and called on the CD to address the ramifications of missile and anti-missile systems to international security and stability. He also said it was imperative for the CD to negotiate legal and political instruments on PAROS and reiterated Pakistan's commitment to negotiations on a Fissile Material Treaty (FMT), underlining in his use of this designation that Pakistan wants the treaty to address existing stocks. In addition, Inam ul Haque addressed the issues of Kashmir and arms build-up in South Asia, and proposed reciprocal agreements with India for nuclear and missile restraint.9


There is a general feeling that it is too early for the key players in the CD to make any big moves. With NMD at centre stage in the current deadlock, and the new US administration just in office, neither China, Russia nor the United States are likely to move anytime soon. Now seems to be the time to try to move public and government opinion, and review and form policies. Only after this will there be a sense of direction in the CD as well. Opinions vary as to whether the Conference can do anything in the meantime. Some want it to remain active, as a forum for policy statements and discussions, and to improve its own working methods - i.e. doing what it can. Others prefer to keep up the pressure, arguing against letting the 'bad guys off the hook' by giving the false impression that the CD is fulfilling its mandate. So, while the debate goes on, the CD remains idle, now for the fifth year.

CD Dates for 2001

January 22 to March 30; May 14 to June 29; and July 30 to September 14.

Notes and References

1. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the UN, in statement delivered by Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, January 23, 2001. UN Press Release, DC/01/2.

2. For the full proposal see CD/1624.

3. Christopher Westdal, Ambassador of Canada to the CD, January 23, 2001.

4. In view of the continuing disagreements in the CD about what to call the negotiations, Disarmament Diplomacy has decided to revert to the abbreviation 'fissban', which does not prejudge the issues of scope and stocks. In referring to the positions of particular states, we use the terms FMCT, FMT, or even FM(C)T, as indicated in their own statements.

5. Ian Soutar, Ambassador of Britain to the CD, February 1, 2001.

6. Man-Soon Chang, Ambassador of South Korea to the CD, February 1, 2001.

7. Günther Seibert, Ambassador of Germany to the CD, January 18, 2000.CD/PV.837.

8. Igor Ivanov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, February 1, 2001. To see the whole speech, visit the website of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) at: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/cd/cdindex.html.

9. Inam ul Haque, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, January 25, 2001. To see the whole speech, visit the WILPF website: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/cd/cdindex.html.

Jenni Rissanen is the Acronym Institute's Analyst attending the CD in Geneva.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.