The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy 

edited by Andrew F. Cooper, Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur
(Oxford University Press, 2013

Chapter 32 (available in pdf here)

Arms Control and Disarmament Diplomacy

Rebecca Johnson

Strategic relations dramatically transformed in the early 1990s, precipitating critical changes in how arms control, disarmament, and diplomacy have come to be perceived and practised. The era of bipolar hegemonies locked in mutually reinforcing rivalries ended as communist governments across the Soviet bloc were toppled by their own citi- zens. For the dominant American and Soviet state systems, which were simultaneously driven and constrained by their nuclear arsenals and mutual fear of unleashing world- wide nuclear annihilation, arms control was important for maintaining bilateral strate- gic stability and avoiding nuclear war. The more diverse, multifaceted geostrategic environment that developed at the end of the cold war has given rise to different security assessments, expectations, challenges, and opportunities, for which traditional military capabilities are of diminishing relevance.

The range of formal and informal diplomatic interactions now being employed to enhance security through the restriction and prohibition of certain kinds of military technologies, weapons, and practices1 goes far beyond the rubric of arms control. ‘Disarmament’, which has broader meaning and is employed both to describe the proc- ess of reducing and eliminating certain weapons systems and the objective or end-state when a specific type of weapon has been abolished, is a more appropriate subject for contemporary analysis than arms control, with recognition that both terms are imbued with contested political connotations and may be employed inconsistently and with competing purposes. Also relevant is the concept of non-proliferation embedded in the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT carried into international law a near-universal objective that encompasses preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, controls over weapons-related technologies that also have civilian applications, and disarmament. The treaty became the cornerstone of a regime of inter- connecting obligations, norms, rules, and formal and informal arrangements, ranging from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the ad hoc Nuclear Suppliers


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Group (NSG), nuclear security summits, and UN Security Council resolutions, includ- ing inter alia 1540 (2004) and 1887 (2009). Though not required to adhere to its stringent safeguards regime, in Article VI of the NPT the five defined nuclear-weapon states (NWS—United States, Soviet Union/Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China) undertook reciprocal obligations to end their nuclear arms race, pursue negotiations ‘in good faith’ on nuclear disarmament, and work with all states parties to achieve ‘a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control’. ‘Counter-proliferation’ and ‘anti-proliferation’ describe policies advanced by a few, mainly US, policy-makers from the late 1990s. The primary aim was to prevent others from acquiring nuclear materials, technologies, and capabilities without necessarily undertaking reciprocal commitments with regard to their own or allies’ nuclear capa- bilities. Though diplomacy may be necessary to reach agreement among military or political allies that undertake joint counter-proliferation activities such as the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative of 2003, the intent is to bring together ‘coalitions of the willing’ to police others rather than to engage in mutual limitations or disarmament, and so will not be addressed in this chapter.

The break-up of the Soviet bloc was both consequence and cause of fundamental trans- formations in the international security environment as the cold war ended, with anti- nuclear movements and disarmament diplomacy playing a small but crucial role during the 1980s. Before the altered ‘new world order’ had time to develop significantly different attitudes towards arms control and disarmament, the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11)—particularly the military and political responses of the George W. Bush administration (2001–2008)–profoundly affected the objectives and conduct of diplo- macy across the international spectrum. Concerns intensified over terrorism, new addi- tions to the nuclear ‘club’, and the proliferation activities of repressive regimes.2 Iraq was substantially disarmed in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions after the 1990–1991 Gulf War. Various diplomatic arrangements addressed the safety and security of sensitive materials and technologies, including cooperative threat reduction pro- grammes that focused primarily on the nuclear facilities in Russia and newly independ- ent former Soviet states, financed by private philanthropy as well as government funds.3

In addition to the increased value attached to multilateral diplomacy even for weap- ons possessed by relatively few states, such as nuclear and chemical, disarmament diplo- macy has grown far beyond ‘diplomats sitting in a conference room negotiating a legally binding agreement’4 and now encompasses a broad range of approaches, types of weap- ons, actors, and mechanisms. Though state-centred treaties continue to be a desired objective, particularly for their normative value as shared instruments under interna- tional law, different forms of disarmament diplomacy have proved their utility for differ- ent purposes, including the necessity in some cases of bypassing political and institutional obstacles. At one end of the spectrum, the 1990–1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives undertaken by Presidents George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev (later Boris Yeltsin) provided for deep reductions in non-strategic/tactical nuclear forces by means of coordinated unilateral declarations, which provided a timely agreement that bypassed slow and often difficult domestic requirements for treaty ratification.


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Negotiated by US and Russian diplomatic teams, these also prompted independent uni- lateral reductions in tactical nuclear weapons by France and the UK, even though nei- ther had been formally represented in the negotiations.

Though instituted during the cold war, review process negotiations have increased in salience for strengthening and extending existing treaties such as the NPT and the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). UN diplomacy also benefited from the less rigid political environment. After the 9/11 attacks, the Security Council was used to augment existing treaties’ disarmament and security obligations to prevent non-state actors from acquiring the means to make and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as illustrated by Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1540 (2004). Limited to political gesture and rhetoric during the cold war, the UN General Assembly facilitated negotiations to get international agreement on a Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in 2001, which continues to be taken forward through review meetings, and has also acted as midwife to a proposed Arms Trade Treaty. Most signifi- cantly, many of these post-cold-war initiatives built on alliances and strategies forged by civil society actors and governments to negotiate measures to control and limit the use, production, and/or trade in weapons that are characterized as particularly inhumane. Two key treaties—the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention (CMC)—were made possible only when a group of ‘like-minded’ governments in con- junction with transnational civil society actors developed ad hoc negotiating forums out- side established structures and institutions, bypassing the structural and political impediments of the framework Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and the paralysed Conference on Disarmament (CD).5

32.1 From Limitation to Prohibition: Disarmament Diplomacy in Transition

Four kinds of developments have shaped changes in the expectations, objectives, and conduct of modern disarmament diplomacy: transformative advances in networked communications and weapons technologies; transnational criminals who include sensi- tive materials and weapons procurement among their trafficking activities; broader civil society networks linked transnationally and motivated by humanitarian, environmen- tal, and anti-militarist concerns;6 and changes in public attitudes towards international security, warfare, and ‘acceptable’ versus ‘unacceptable’ means for achieving national and international policy objectives.

Since the 1980s, developments in electronic and space-based technologies have accel- erated globalization and led to an unprecedented diffusion of information and exchange through networked communication. Driven in part by military interests, this ‘third industrial revolution’ advanced capabilities in computing, communications, space-based monitoring, information-collection, and targeting. As the United States forged ahead,


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they hailed these advances as a ‘revolution in military affairs’. As with all revolutions, however, there were losses as well as gains. The growing civil and military dependence on space-based assets and highly sensitive electronic and technological tools has brought new capabilities, but also new threats and challenges. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for example, explicitly cited vulnerability to a pre-emptive ‘Space Pearl Harbor’7 to justify why the US should expand military capabilities in space, potentially including systems banned under existing treaties, such as the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which the George W. Bush administration withdrew from in 2002, and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. As with weapons and military advances from time imme- morial, when one power develops greater capabilities, others will seek to go further, cre- ating destabilizing arms races that drive insecurity until halted by either the carnage of war or commitments to mutual disarmament. In contrast to Rumsfeld’s militaristic assumptions, networked communication and responsible uses of space as a protected ‘global commons’ and ‘common good’ carry the possibility of increasing global security, with shared advantages for all. From the wide information resources available through Google, Wikipedia, and Wikileaks, to collective action and demonstrations such as brought about the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings in 2011, networked communication is ena- bling greater civil society participation in governance and political change, amplifying the growing awareness of shared, global interests, such as environmental protection, disarmament, development, and the responsible production and consumption of energy and scarce resources. This ‘end of geography’,8 as noted by Jorge Heine, is influencing profound changes in modern diplomacy, including disarmament issues.

A further relevant development is the way in which the humanitarian impact of weap- ons has become a driving force once more, bypassing the assumptions and premises that narrowed the scope and prospects for disarmament in the cold war. Where diplomatic efforts for the latter half of the 20th century were dominated by technical and military discussions about utility, defence roles, modes of deployments, verification, and criteria for usage and trade restrictions, the diplomatic strategies that succeeded in banning landmines and cluster munitions focused on the human impact, thereby shifting the burden of justification onto those seeking to retain, deploy, manufacture, and trade in these weapons. The Oslo Declaration that launched the process for the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention epitomized this new approach to ‘disarmament as humanitarian action’ when its forty-six signatory states explicitly identified their objective as to ‘pro- hibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unac- ceptable harm to civilians’.9 Concerns about the long-term health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons had also framed early nuclear disarmament efforts in moral terms, but were for decades dismissed as irrelevant by nuclear club practitioners steeped in the premises and rituals of realist nuclear doctrines. In the wake of successful strate- gies to ban other inhumane weapons, nuclear diplomacy is increasingly being pushed by non-nuclear governments, in conjunction with civil society networks, using concepts such as ‘catastrophic humanitarian consequences’ and calling for compliance with Inter- national Humanitarian Law (IHL).10 After decades of arms control, non-proliferation, and counter-proliferation doing little to dent the military and political value some states


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attach to nuclear weapons, new strategies based on ‘humanitarian action’ and delegiti- mizing nuclear deterrence doctrines have begun to be employed to pave the way for multilateral negotiations on a comprehensive treaty or framework of agreements to accomplish the internationally-supported objective of a world free of nuclear weapons.

The context, conduct, and objectives of disarmament diplomacy are determined not only by exogenous events and political relations between states, but by political and philosophi- cal changes in how national and international security are perceived and pursued. Far from being fixed or rational, as portrayed by realist theoreticians, states’ interests in negotiations are trade-offs in a complex relationship dynamics between security, disarmament, foreign policy, defence, arms producers, and domestic opinion-shapers; negotiating postures are frequently contested and subject to capture, recapture, and transformation. Weapons that appear useful in one historic era may come to be seen more as problems than assets in a dif- ferent political and security environment. Means of waging war or projecting power that once appeared acceptable, necessary, or inevitable may be reframed over time as unaccept- able, unnecessary, and ripe for elimination. For some—from street gangs to nuclear weapon states—the possession of certain weapons may be framed in terms of defence or deterrence when the underlying drivers have more to do with notions of identity, status, club member- ship, or power projection. Others may perceive those same weapons as destabilizing and threatening, contributing to greater insecurity and arms racing, where a mistake or act of aggression can have fatal—even catastrophic—consequences. While arms control has been a widely accepted tool to promote and underpin security, it may also be a means for main- taining strategic positioning and relationships that block progressive regional or global security developments or, alternatively, it may appear as an insidious mechanism to reduce a country’s military advantages and defence capabilities vis-à-vis others. Disarmament, once regarded as the business of governments and their military experts, is driven now by concepts of international and human security, intersecting with globalist perspectives in which governance is assessed by international standards, with value attached to human rights and humanitarian effects that erode the primacy formerly accorded to national secu- rity justifications, military force, and state sovereignty.

Three of the precursors that led to the significant weapons restrictions initiated by the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 have been interestingly echoed in post-cold war developments; dramatic epistemic advances in science and weapons technologies that increased the military options of certain states far beyond what had been previously possible, leading to arms racing and war among major powers; the rise of feminist and anti-militarist perspectives as women became more politically assertive; and changes in public attitudes towards what constituted ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ weapons and wars. The Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 brought together the major powers and social progressives of the time to codify elements of the rules of war, resulting also in the restriction or prohibition of the use of certain weapons, notably dum dum bullets and asphyxiating chemicals, deemed particularly inhumane. Nonetheless, chemical weap- ons such as mustard gas and phosgene were used by both sides in the First World War. After that war, a flurry of diplomatic activity focused on controlling and limiting the technological means and size of military forces usable for future wars. The principal


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enduring outcome was a framework treaty, the 1925 Geneva Convention on the Arms Trade, which brought in minimum standards of reporting and regulations for the use of certain types of weapons. The Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare was the most significant restriction to be agreed at that time. It prohibited the use of biologi- cal and chemical weaponry in warfare, but did not deal with production, deployment, stockpiling, trade or, most importantly, the use of chemicals and asphyxiating gases to kill civilian non-combatants, as occurred during the 1939–1945 war.

The end of the Second World War heralded the beginning of the nuclear age and the bit- ter military-ideological rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union, which became the dominant military-industrial powers. By detonating atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, President Harry Truman simultaneously demonstrated US techno- logical and military superiority and forestalled the entry of Soviet forces into the Japanese mainland. As images from the two devastated cities spread round the world, reactions were divided: some wanted to access these powerful weapons of mass annihilation for themselves, while others sought to prohibit and abolish them. When the United Nations was founded, its first General Assembly resolution of 24 January 1946 concerned ‘the prob- lems raised by the discovery of atomic energy’. In 1946, the Baruch Plan characterized nuclear disarmament as ‘a choice between the quick and the dead’. Such early multilateral efforts to contain atomic weapons technologies failed, and the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France, and China soon followed the United States in developing, testing, and deploying nuclear arsenals. Nuclear weapons dominated strategic thinking, not only as a greatly-feared tool of mass destruction, but also as a highly-prized currency of power.

From 1945 until the early 1960s, military rivalry and brinkmanship characterized strategic relations between the US and Soviet blocs. The mushroom clouds from atomic and hydrogen bombs tests in the atmosphere provoked public and political pressure to end nuclear testing, organized by women’s groups, philosophical and moral leaders, doctors and scientists in Western countries and Japan, with strong support from non- aligned governments led by India, Indonesia, and Sweden. Yet it was not until after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that the dominant powers acted to control nuclear arms. Recognition of how close they had come to nuclear war gave the major powers a shared incentive to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons but not necessarily to get rid of their own arsenals. The first product was the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), negotiated by the United States, Soviet Union, and Britain and then opened for other states to sign and ratify. Though greeted with relief, the PTBT constituted more of a set- back than victory for civil society and many non-aligned and middle power govern- ments, which had been advocating a fully comprehensive ban on all nuclear testing.

Following the PTBT, the cold war powers turned their attention to getting a non-pro- liferation treaty, which had been advocated in slightly different resolutions from Ireland and Sweden to the UN General Assembly in 1961.11 Though the NPT is generally viewed as a success for multilateral diplomacy, it was designed to protect the strategic interests of the United States and Soviet Union, who maintained overall control of the negotia- tions by tabling identical treaty drafts and, finally, a joint draft treaty.12 The non-nuclear


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members of the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee13 played a significant role in pushing for a disarmament commitment and a right for treaty parties to develop nuclear technologies for non-military (described as ‘peaceful’) purposes. Even so, the treaty was castigated by some as discriminatory and unequal, due to the weak, watered down lan- guage on disarmament that made it into Article VI, and the lack of provisions for moni- toring the five nuclear-weapons states defined in the treaty text, in contrast with the stringent obligations and safeguards requirements imposed on all the non-nuclear- weapon states that acceded to the NPT. In consequence, a number of states with nuclear programmes or aspirations (for example, Argentina, Brazil, France, India, and several African states) abstained on the UN resolution recommending adoption of the NPT in June 1968. In a move that was to be echoed twenty-eight years later with the CTBT, India castigated the NPT as discriminatory and publicly declared its refusal to sign.14

Soon after the NPT entered into force in 1970, the US and Soviet Union recognized that biological weapons were not a usable military asset and pushed through negotiations on the BWC. Though this was another bilaterally managed treaty in multilateral clothing without multilateral verification or monitoring provisions, the BWC did not seek to emu- late the NPT’s non-proliferation structure but promulgated a universal prohibition on the production and use of biological and toxin weapons, applicable to all states. During a period of détente, further bilateral treaties were negotiated, primarily to stabilize the US–Soviet strategic relationship and reduce the financial burden of their arms racing. The most important of these was the ABM Treaty, which enshrined the concept of deter- rence based on mutual vulnerability, and the SALT I Interim Agreement, the first to limit strategic nuclear weapons. Designed as a package, these entered into force together in 1972. In 1979, a further US–Soviet strategic arms limitation agreement, SALT II, was signed, but was never implemented due to political and electoral shifts in the United States and the deployment of new generations of intermediate-range ‘theatre’ missiles by the Soviet Union and NATO. Reacting to fears of a new atomic arms race and nuclear war in the European ‘theatre’, American civic leaders called for a ‘freeze’ on US and Soviet arsenals, while across Europe a new generation of activists demanded the removal of Soviet SS20s and the US cruise and Pershing missiles from both sides of the Berlin Wall. More than just a re-energizing of earlier peace movements, the new peace activists went far beyond the established anti-nuclear NGOs. Drawing from civil rights, anti-war, femi- nist, and gay liberation movements of the previous two decades, they were politicized to embrace diversity and use creative non-violent actions. The latest nuclear weapons deployments were framed not only as life threatening, but as a representative tool of patri- archal ideologies of division, coercion, and control. Calling for the dissolution of the NATO–Warsaw Pact blocs as well as the removal of their respective weapons, the 1980s movements engaged new generations of activists across the political and cultural spec- trum, integrating feminist and human rights consciousness with emerging green and environmental awareness. Embedded in grassroots campaigns with charismatic ‘norm entrepreneurs’,15 Western activists reached across the ‘iron curtain’ to communicate with women’s groups and other religious and political dissidents in the Soviet bloc, seeking new ways to talk about shared concerns such as peace, freedom, and human rights.


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The turning point occurred in October 1986, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan met in Reykjavik and ‘began to outbid each other’ in visions of how to remove the nuclear threat through disarmament.16 Superficially, the diplomatic endgame that resulted in the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty may have resembled the bilateral club diplomacy of the 1960s–1970s. Closer analysis, however, shows transitional characteristics associated with the globalist disarmament diplomacy of the early 21st century. The impetus for negotiations was driven by civil society networks acting transnationally. The INF Treaty did not just mandate limitations or reductions in obsolete weapons systems, but required the complete removal of an entire class of ground-based state-of-the-art nuclear mis- siles. For a few hours, the superpower leaders moved beyond the deterrence equation of mutual threat, and shared visions that they could get rid of all nuclear weapons and make the world a safer place.17 They failed, due in large part to President Reagan’s obdu- rate attachment to the science-fiction fantasy of an impenetrable missile shield (the so- called Strategic Defense Initiative), as anxious political advisors on both sides scrambled to rein in their presidents’ aspirations. Though there were still disarmament opponents in the military and nuclear weapons laboratories that sought to undermine political leaders’ visions of what was possible, they did not create the kind of exaggerated verifica- tion hurdles of the past.18 Once the political commitment was made, technical and veri- fication questions were treated as challenges requiring solutions and not as obstacles to derail the INF Treaty objective. Improved access to communication and information about each others’ lives, through television and radio as well as people-to-people initia- tives, made it possible for civil society to breach the East–West borders from both direc- tions. Gorbachev was a beneficiary of these changes as well as an instigator, and has acknowledged the importance of civil society—notably international organizations of physicians and scientists and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp—in con- vincing him to take risks in proposing deep nuclear disarmament. In dynamic interac- tion, the political upheavals that led to the Reykjavik Summit also contributed to changing a generation’s mindset. The 1980s peace movements reshaped disarmament diplomacy through their actions, analysis, and appeals, thereby influencing and ena- bling the profound systemic changes that ended the cold war.

As US and Russian leaders reassessed their interests and policies in the post-cold war transition, multilateral diplomacy was able to accomplish two important objectives that had been stuck on the CD’s agenda for years: the CWC and CTBT. Concluding these long-sought treaties became possible as power balances shifted and arsenals that could poison or destroy the world lost much of their salience. The negotiations to ban chemi- cal weapons, which concluded in 1992, conformed in many ways to John Ruggie’s princi- ples of multilateralism, which he derived from trade negotiations and characterized as diffuse reciprocity, indivisibility (for example, through shared responsibilities and ben- efits), and non-discrimination.19 The major players were traditional government elites with advice and input from pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

By contrast, the test ban treaty, which was negotiated over 1994–1996, exhibited more of the hallmarks of modern diplomacy. The nuclear-armed P5 entered the CTBT


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negotiations intent on normalizing the possession of nuclear weapons by their privi- leged group, while preventing the rise of additional nuclear-weapon possessors such as non-NPT states India, Pakistan, and Israel.20 Despite their determined efforts, however, the ‘minilateral’ P5 negotiations were far from decisive. Epistemic actors, from civil soci- ety and scientific institutions, played particularly important roles in shaping states’ pref- erences on scope and verification, bearing out theories that link integrative convergence strategies with the cognitive and ideational roles of civil society, and the recasting of val- ues, norms, and ideas.21 Exemplifying Thakur’s analysis on balance of interests (Chapter 3, this volume), the integrative outcomes on scope and verification were made easier to achieve because competing perceptions of national interest among the P5 led to stale- mate regarding permitted activities and verification technologies, creating space for interests to be reframed and traded through input by other actors that would previously have been excluded. The zero-yield decision became possible not only because the P5 were deeply divided over threshold levels, but also because there were competing objec- tives within the various national positions, most notably among the US agencies. Interests and power were fragmented, with pressure exerted on many sides, including from domestic and trans-governmental alliances between the nuclear scientists and military officials of more than one country. As a consequence, the outcome was deter- mined by three intersecting levels of activity: trans-governmental, involving diplomacy among officials from different states; transnational civil society networking to frame objectives and options and broaden understanding of the negotiations that still largely took place behind closed doors; and cross-level interactions, in which governmental and non-governmental actors from different states collaborated in formal and informal alliances to achieve regime-building objectives.22

Multilateral institutions such as the CD, the United Nations (most notably the Security Council), the IAEA, and treaty-based forums were structured to promote and protect the interests of the dominant powers of their time, the nuclear-weapon states, which established for themselves veto powers and special responsibilities. Conducted by professional and technical cadres with special interests as well as expertise, the bilat- eral (US–Russian) and ‘minilateral’ P5 talks exemplified club diplomacy at its most elite, with concomitant cultures of secrecy that concealed mistakes and incompetence as well as militarily sensitive information.

32.2 Humanitarian-Centred Disarmament and Integrative Diplomacy

The growing role of integrative approaches in modern diplomacy reflects the increased importance of civil society and epistemic actors who use cognitive and communications strategies to change how governments view security issues, disarmament objectives, and the achievability of potential solutions and agreements. In contrast to the zero-sum


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assumptions of distributive negotiations, which often require the key players to be on board before negotiations can begin, integrative diplomacy aims to expand the options and change perceptions of the zones of possible agreement, building support as the dis- armament process develops.23 Treating military and political interests as factors that can be altered, integrative diplomacy may be overtaking traditional arms control by employ- ing a range of tools and techniques that reframe security concepts and objectives and build public and political momentum for disarmament on the basis of norms such as ‘unacceptable harm’.

The ending of the cold war created fresh opportunities for millions of people. It also enabled negative developments, as illustrated by the eruption of ethno-nationalist vio- lence in countries from Yugoslavia to Rwanda in the 1990s, and increased trans-border trafficking in weapons, drugs, and human beings, by transnationally networked crimi- nal gangs.24 Against this background of armed criminality and wars, a growing number of NGOs and governments redoubled efforts to stem the carnage wrought by small arms and the weapons that left their explosive remnants to kill civilians long after the military has departed. After early attempts to address inhumane weapons through the CCW, advocates of a comprehensive ban on landmines concluded that this approach would lead to failure, likely to become tangled up in fruitless years of negotiations on technical, incremental, and partial steps. Impelled to tackle the humanitarian crisis caused by such munitions in several countries, cross-regional networking by civil society and politically significant ‘middle power’ states have carried through important disarmament initia- tives that bypassed the CD and other established institutions. Instead of using the state- centred, military-stability arguments associated with 20th-century arms control, the new approach mobilized support for disarmament action on the grounds of human impact, humanitarian concerns, and international humanitarian law.

The first agreement achieved in this way, the 1997 Mine Ban Convention, gave rise to a new term in diplomacy—the ‘Ottawa Process’—as the Treaty was opened for signature in Ottawa, reflecting the prominent role played by Canada.25 Though there are disagree- ments about the lessons and broader applicability of the Ottawa Process, the term is generally used to describe strategies to ban certain kinds of weapons through the mobi- lization of humanitarian arguments by civil society and concerned governments acting in partnership, and the innovative use of ad hoc negotiating forums where necessary to bypass blockages in the diplomatic environment. From Norway to South Africa, Canada to Viet Nam, civil society created awareness and political pressure on behalf of victims and potential victims and engaged with middle power governments to achieve a com- prehensive ban on landmines that went much further than the major powers envis- aged.26 Through networked leadership, the basic campaign demands were transmitted to civil society groups throughout the world, who translated them into messages, actions, and on-the-ground political campaigns that forced many reluctant govern- ments to change policy, join in the negotiations, and in most cases sign and ratify the resulting treaty.

The lessons from the Ottawa Process have been transferred and adapted for other weapons systems, from small arms and cluster munitions to nuclear weapons. Building


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on the success of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, partnerships among enlightened governments and civil society advocates of gun control from many different countries engaged in diplomatic strategies that brought about the ground-breaking Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in 2001. Negotiated under UN auspices, this contained a range of measures to be undertaken through national, regional, and global action to ‘prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects’.27 Although lacking the formal accoutre- ments of a treaty, the SALW Programme of Action instituted an ongoing process with biennial meetings, expert groups, and five-yearly conferences to review implementation and take the programme further, providing multiple levels for civil society to undertake and promote SALW disarmament efforts locally, nationally, and internationally. Working on the ground to stem the weapons’ use and trafficking, local NGOs have con- tinued to share information and strategies and amplify their effectiveness through a glo- bal network constituted as the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), which initiates diplomatic strategies and exerts pressure on local and national govern- ments, regional bodies, and the United Nations. Further initiatives, such as an Arms Trade Treaty, developed as spin-offs from diplomatic work to implement the SALW Programme of Action.

US and NATO actions in Iraq and Afghanistan revived concerns about the unaccept- able harm caused by cluster munitions, designed to disperse into multiple bomblets which then continue to explode, fragment, and kill or maim unwary civilians. Children were especially vulnerable, as they were attracted by the toy-like size and colouring of the bomblets. Radicalized by work on landmines and SALW, civil society already had networks that were able to respond when Norway coordinated a group of like-minded governments and provided leadership and resources to coordinate multilateral negotia- tions and achieve the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention, despite opposition by a number of significant military powers.

32.3 Distributive and Integrative Tactics in Disarmament Diplomacy

The most important shift in diplomatic practice is the growing incorporation of integra- tive, negotiating strategies and tactics associated with creating ‘positive sum’ outcomes.28 Faced with the military-industrial interests of larger states with greater sources of aggre- gate power and influence, small and middle power states are developing new ways to foster convergence, augmenting their issue-based power through ‘like-minded’ alli- ances that were a far cry from the cold war ‘group system’ that has trapped decision- making in the CD and other UN-based institutions. The tactics described in this section show some of the key differences between distributive and integrative approaches. Integrative tactics draw diplomacy towards mediation and away from the traditional


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notion of ‘war by another means’, and are therefore more likely to be constructive than obstructive, whereas distributive tactics seek national or individual advantage and encourage blocking and concealing manoeuvres as well as trade-offs. Integrative strategies and tactics are used to facilitate convergence towards mutually beneficial agreements. Seeking to draw adversaries into recognizing interests outside narrow, nationally-bounded perceptions, integrative approaches are employed to bridge dif- ferences and construct new understandings of security interests. If solutions are not possible within currently recognized structures and assumptions, then cognitive strat- egies are used to reframe the perceived options and expand the zones of possible agreement, where acceptable compromises may be forged.29

32.3.1 Delaying Tactics

  • Waiting for Godot—interminably delaying for the arrival of some mythical moment when the time is perfectly ripe.
  • Quicksand—bogging an initiative down in questions, objections, or demands for definitions or an inquiry.
  • Ping-Pong—shunting an issue back and forth between different committees, institutions, or negotiating forums.32.3.2 Concealment
  • Hide and seek—concealing real objectives, for example in high-minded rhetoric or a mass of technical data and extraneous detail.
  • Slipstreaming—concealing preferences behind the positions of another state or delegation.
  • Fronting—a form of collaborative slipstreaming, in which one delegation adopts a position that is stronger than its own interests would require, enabling others to benefit by coasting in its wake.
  • Faking—a two-faced tactic of pretending to support a proposal that you actually oppose or vice versa.32.3.3 DefectionandLinkageTactics
    • Moving the goalposts—whatever is achievable becomes by definition inadequate so that the reachable is perpetually ditched for a more inaccessible position.
    • Best versus good—rejecting adequate or useful agreements on the grounds that they do not match up with some grander but less practical or accessible ideal.


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  • Linkage—tying progress or agreement on one issue with achievement of agree- ment or gains on another issue.
  • All or nothing—a linkage tactic asserting that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
  • Hostage-taking—coercively presenting a contested point or outcome in your favour as a make or break issue for the whole negotiations.
  • Tit for tat—you’ve done something to thwart or annoy me, so I’ll do something to thwart or annoy you back.

32.3.4 Bridging and Trading

  • Concession-trading—a bargaining process of trading concessions to facilitate convergence.
  • Mediation—when a third party or parties help to promote agreement by enabling antagonists to address underlying causes of disagreement.
  • Bridge-building—in which one or more of the antagonistic parties are prepared to concede or modify demands to promote convergence.
  • ‘Third-party bridging’—by an ‘honest broker’ (which can comprise officials, states, or civil society) exploring ways to bring antagonistic parties closer together.Integrative negotiations employ more constructive than blocking tactics:

32.3.5 Regime-Building ‘Cognitive’ Tactics

  • Norm-shaping—stigmatizing the weapon or problem and presenting alternatives and solutions.
  • Reframing—recasting hurdles, problems, or solution options in less adversarial terms, offering integrative solutions with mutual gains.
  • Step-ladder—deploying new information to enable parties to view problems from a different perspective and so surmount the obstacles impeding agreement.
  • Unpacking—in which a problem is disaggregated or separated into its constituent parts to facilitate incremental agreement or progress.

32.3.6 Bypassing the Obstacles

• Bypass operation—can be used to radically redefine the context or, alternatively, to create or adapt an alternative forum for negotiations or adoption of a measure or agreement if the established forum is inadequate or obstructed.


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• Leap-frogging—a more dramatic means of avoiding deadlock, such as when a group of like-minded states carry an issue by jumping over a structural or political obstacle.

32.4 Conclusions

As regional, economic, and political upheavals continue to affect the geostrategic envi- ronment, so changes in security threats and perceptions have influenced the theory and practice of disarmament diplomacy. Technological advances, networked communica- tions, and globalization have amplified certain threats, including transnational, mass- destructive terrorism. To the global security challenges of climate chaos and other human-induced environmental changes must be added asymmetric and intra-state wars and conflicts, with causes related to declining resources, demographic pressures, perceptions of comparative disadvantage, or ethnic, religious, and nationalist rivalries. While nuclear weapons, missiles, and potential space weaponization remain major tar- gets for disarmament diplomacy, grassroots action will continue on conventional weap- ons, including small arms. War-fighting technologies will increasingly depend on remotely-controlled drones, missiles, space-based and cyber components, enhanced through nanotechnologies. While offering potentially destabilizing capabilities for extra-judicial execution of adversaries and warfare pursued by militaries keeping a ‘safe distance’, space-based and remotely-controlled assets may also provide new tools for disarmament and arms control, particularly verification.

Concepts of human and global security are still in the process of being developed and defined, but balancing human needs with addressing the security imperatives of envi- ronmental and trans-boundary threats will shape new kinds of networked and multilat- eral diplomacy. The realist and neo-liberal diplomacies of competing states pursuing national defence interests were capable of delivering some regime benefits, but they have also been responsible for deadlock and sub-optimal agreements. These are more likely to occur when those responsible for managing the endgame fudge complexities, split differences, or concede to the most obstructive parties (generally those with the military capabilities or practices that the rest of the world wants to limit). In such interactions, dominant actors are able to determine or even impose a final settlement, as illustrated in the PTBT and NPT. Such a ‘managed convergence’ may be acceptable to other actors if they perceive the tangible or regime benefits to be greater than the alternative of getting no agreement,30 but recent history indicates that such outcomes are overly limited and may even be counterproductive for human and international security.

Four important factors that were largely absent from cold-war arms control are com- ing to the fore and will influence disarmament diplomacy in the future: human security perspectives; trans-boundary, globalized security challenges, such as industrially- induced environmental and climate changes that cannot be tackled or contained at a


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national level; positive-sum integrative negotiating approaches; and increasingly signifi- cant roles undertaken by non-state actors, whether as terrorist combatants or disarma- ment experts, grassroots activists, and citizen diplomats in partnership with progressive governments. As economic health rather than military assets will increasingly determine strategic positioning, stability, and the international security environment, the perceived military-industrial interests of economically-weak governments are likely to be of declin- ing influence in diplomacy for the purposes of constraining and prohibiting weapons. Though opposition from nuclear-dependent and heavily-armed powers may weaken the effectiveness of disarmament agreements, their nationally perceived interests are no longer decisive in preventing negotiations from being pursued through to conclusion, legal application, and even entry into force. Other governments and non-governmental actors have demonstrated what can be achieved with a progressive, dynamic approach to negotiations in which disarmament is framed as humanitarian action to protect vulnera- ble civilians. Even so, progress is unlikely to be quick or smooth. The institutions, expec- tations, and conduct of arms control and disarmament are slow to change, in large part because many senior governmental and academic practitioners and diplomats continue to prioritize adversarial distributive approaches because these are the forms of diplomacy in which most of them were trained and educated. Despite their resistance, however, new configurations in international security and strategic stability are knocking at the door, requiring more effective theories and strategies for disarmament and diplomacy.


  1. Thebestsourcesfortrackingthesedevelopmentsareinnationalandinternationaljournals on foreign policy and international relations. For overviews, see Thomas C. Schelling and Morton H. Halperin, Strategy and Arms Control (Washington: Pergamon-Brassey’s, 1985) and Jeffrey A. Larsen and James J. Wirtz (eds), Arms Control and Cooperative Security (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2009).
  2. In 1998 India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests and proclaimed themselves ‘nuclear- weapon states’, while Israel has been assumed to have a significant nuclear arsenal since the late 1970s, camouflaged under a policy of nuclear opacity. In addition to these three addi- tional nuclear-armed states, there have been various actual or potential new proliferators giving concern, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, and North Korea, with connections to the ‘Nuclear Walmart’ run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who masterminded Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme in the 1980s and 1990s. See Christopher Clary, ‘Dr Khan’s Nuclear WalMart’, Disarmament Diplomacy 76, London, March/April 2004.
  3. Forexample,CNNfounderTedTurnerdonatedmillionsofdollarsfornucleardisarmament which were primarily disbursed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), which carried through cooperative threat reduction programmes that had been curtailed due to US fund- ing cuts by the George W. Bush administration and inadequate take-up by the EU countries.
  4. Michael Moodie, ‘Regional Perspectives on Arms Control’, in Larsen and Wirtz (eds), Arms Control and Cooperative Security, 170.
  5. See Rebecca Johnson, Unfinished Business: The Negotiation of the CTBT and the End of Nuclear Testing (Geneva: United Nations, 2009).


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  1. AnnM.Florini(ed.),TheThirdForce:TheRiseofTransnationalCivilSociety(Washington: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000). See also Helmut Anheier, Marlies Glasius, and Mary Kaldor (eds), Global Civil Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
  2. ReportoftheCommissiontoAssessUnitedStatesNationalSecuritySpaceManagement and Organisation, Washington DC (Public Law 106–65), 11 January 2001.
  3. Formore,seeChapter2,thisvolume.
  4. JohnBorrie,UnacceptableHarm:AHistoryofHowTheTreatyToBanClusterMunitionsWasWon (Geneva: United Nations, 2009). Borrie was also involved in developing the concept of ‘disarmament as humanitarian action’ for the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. See John Borrie and Vanessa Martin Randin (eds), Disarmament as Humanitarian Action and Thinking Outside the Box in Multilateral Disarmament and Arms Control Negotiations (Geneva: United Nations, 2006).
  5. Diplomatsfromnon-nuclearstatesworkedwithcivilsocietytoincorporatehumanitarian concepts in the 2010 NPT Review Conference outcome to pave the way for nuclear aboli- tion and comprehensive treaty approaches: ‘The Conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.’ Conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions, 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Final Document, 1.A.v. See Rebecca Johnson, Tim Caughley, and John Borrie, Decline or Transform: Nuclear disarmament and security beyond the NPT Review Process (London: Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, 2012). <http://www.acronym.>.
  6. TheIrishresolution,A/RES/1665,wasadoptedunanimouslyandtheSwedishresolution, A/RES/1664, by 58 votes to 10, with 23 abstentions, on 4 December 1961.
  7. ForadetailedhistoryoftheNPTnegotiations,seeMohammedShaker,TheNuclearNon- Proliferation Treaty: Origin and Implementation, 1959–1979 (New York: Oceana, 1980).
  8. TheCommissioncomprisedfiveNATOandfiveWarsawPactandnon-alignedcountries.France, though invited, did not attend.
  9. Fouralsovotedagainst:Albania,Cuba,Tanzania,andZambia.Ofthosewhoabstainedorspoke against the NPT in 1968, all but India have now acceded. Israel, Pakistan, and South Africa voted in favour of the resolution but did not sign at the time. See Alva Myrdal, The Game of Disarmament: How the United States and Russia Run the Arms Race (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977).
  10. See Richard Price, ‘Reversing the Gun Sights: Transnational Civil Society Targets Landmines’, International Organization 53:3 (1998), 613–44; Ethan A. Nadelmann, ‘Global prohibition regimes: the evolution of norms in international society’, International Organization 44:4 (1990), 479–526; and Jody Williams and Stephen D. Goose, ‘Citizen DiplomacyandtheOttawaProces:ALastingModel?’,inJodyWilliams,StephenD.Goose, and Mary Wareham (eds), Banning Landmines: Disarmament, Citizen Diplomacy and Human Security (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).
  11. Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1989), 419.
  12. Jeffrey W. Knopf, ‘Beyond two-level games: domestic-international interaction in the intermediate-range nuclear forces negotiation’, International Organization 47:4 (1993), 599–628.


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  1. SeeNancyW.Gallagher,ThePoliticsofVerification(Baltimore:JohnsHopkinsUniversity Press, 1999).
  2. JohnGerardRuggie,‘Multilateralism:theAnatomyofanInstitution’,inJ.G.Ruggie(ed.), Multilateralism Matters (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), especially 7–12.
  3. Israel’s interests as an undeclared nuclear-weapon possessor were largely protected by theUnited States, since Israel was not a member of the CD when CTBT negotiations opened.

    See Johnson, Unfinished Business.

  4. JamesSebeniuscreditsWaltonandMcKersiewithcoiningtheterm‘integrativebargaining’,which they defined as a problem-solving approach that seeks to expand or change the zone of possible agreement and so present a different range of options for convergence than first appear to be on the table. See Richard Walton and Robert McKersie, A Behavioral Theory of Labour Negotiations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965). It became associated with the negotia- tion-analytic approach of Duncan Luce, Howard Raiffa, and Thomas C. Schelling, Games and Decisions (New York: Wiley, 1957).
  5. Johnson, Unfinished Business. This analysis also bears out elements of Jeffrey W. Knopf ’s ‘three-and-three analysis’ in ‘Beyond two-level games’.
  6. See Walton and McKersie, A Behavioral Theory of Labor Negotiations; Luce, Raiffa, and Schelling, Games and Decisions. On integrative bargaining and mixed motive games, see Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980). For alternative approaches to mixed motive interactions, see Kenneth A. Oye (ed.), Cooperation Under Anarchy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (London: Penguin Books, 1990); Glen H. Snyder and Paul Diesing, Conflict Among Nations: Bargaining, Decision Making and System Structure in International Crises (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977).
  7. SeeJorgeHeineandRameshThakur(eds),TheDarkSideofGlobalization(Tokyo:United Nations University Press, 2011).
  8. See Chapter 44, this volume, and Ramesh Thakur and William Maley, ‘The Ottawa Convention on Landmines: A Landmark Humanitarian Treaty in Arms Control?’, Global Governance 5:3 (July–September 1999), 273–302.
  9. Price, ‘Reversing the Gun Sights’; Maxwell A. Cameron, Robert J. Lawson, and Brian W. Tomlin (eds), To Walk Without Fear: The Global Movement to Ban Landmines (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  10. UNDocumentA/CONF.192/15,< of-action-poa>.
  11. See James K. Sebenius, ‘Challenging conventional explanations of international coopera- tion: negotiation analysis and the case of epistemic communities’, in Peter M. Haas (ed.), Knowledge, Power, and International Policy Coordination (Columbia SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1992).
  12. This list of negotiating tactics was developed by the author. See Johnson, Unfinished Business. The list builds on earlier analysis by Johan Kaufmann in The Diplomacy of International Relations: Selected Writings (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998), 11–30. On logrolling and bridging tactics, see Dean G. Pruitt, Negotiation Behaviour (New York: Academic Press, 1981), 153–5. See also Fen Osler Hampson and Michael Hart, Multilateral Negotiations: Lessons from Arms Control, Trade and the Environment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).
  13. On alternatives to accepting agreement and no-agreement dilemmas, see Sebenius, ‘Challenging conventional explanations of international cooperation’, 334–5.

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