156. Two Worlds of Arms Control, Two Visions of Europe

By
Daniel N. Nelson

The new millennium will begin without a consensus among world leaders on the direction or importance of arms control. This being the case, two scenarios exsist that US policy makers must take into account. The first is tha the quantitative dimension of arms control will disappear. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the superpower-driven urgency of arms control (which made for high politics at U.S.-Soviet summits) will be replaced by efforts to implement and verify exsisting treaties: START I and II, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and perhaps a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (if the Senate ratifies it in 1998 or 1999). "Free market arms control" will become the norm; additional reductions or impose tighter verification regimes will be regarded as too expensive to implement. Quantitative arms control may not be an issues in any case, since rising social and financial costs dictate downsizing forces and discarding weapons.

The second scenario envisions a shift in arms control from quantitative to qualitative dimension. This alternative would focus on reducing the diffusion of technologies, and decreasing the lethality, sophistication, reach, rapidity, and mobility of remaining arsenals. In addition, low-end weapons that target individuals, houses, and communities rather than economic infrastructure and military objects would receive greater attention. A qualitative arms control agenda will stress a global approach rather than bilateral, regional, or even multilateral negotiations; non-governmental organizations, cor-porations that manufacture weapons and control technologies, and states and their institutions would collaborate on treaties that heretofore only ministries and their negotiators fashioned.

The choice between such scenarios will directly and deeply affect US policy towards critical regions, allies, and adversaries. The same choice will influence how and what is promoted as American exports, US ties to multilateral organizations, US roles in peacekeeping, and more.

The alternatives for arms control transfer readily into two visions of Europe. One pictures 21st-century Europe with an enlarged NATO, a forward deployment of equipment and forces, and the utilization of new manpower resources (Poland's, for example) for intra-Europe and out-of-area missions. One can anticipate future Bosnia-like contingencies (in which air attacks are used to generate negotiations followed by heavily-armored deployments to enforce a peace). In this vision, the US will husband its military assets, maintain flexibility, continue to modernize weapons and supporting technologies, augment the lethality of weapons and the capacities of soldiers, arm and upgrade new allies' forces, and equip and train to balance power in war-prone regions. This Europe is one in which capacities are a route to peace, and one in which protecting, defending, balancing, and enforcing are gerunds of choice. The momentum of arms control has stopped, and we manage what we have with the tools we know best.

A second vision of Europe includes an enlarged NATO that has undergone a metamorphosis. By including new allies and partners, the Alliance evolves into an organization for collective security, a proactive purveyor of threat-abatement backed by still robust, but more limited, military capabilities. Pursuing a strategy of threat abatement, such a Europe would have qualitative arms control high on next century's agenda.

But the balance between flexibility and stability is still unresolved. The United States demands flexibility, insisting that an adapted Conventional Forces Europe agreement should not negatively affect NATO and American capacities to fulfill mutual treaty obligations, respond to crises and peacekeeping needs, and adequately train with allies. At what point, however, does an inflexible emphasis on flexibility, here an insistence on protecting assets, guarding equities, and preserving abilities to move and deploy military equipment, impede the presumed goal of a more stable Europe?

Caution-and reluctance-guide American behavior on other pending arms control matters that can significantly affect the European continent. Article 5 of the Dayton Accords vaguely stipulates that regional arms control will be pursued, but does not specify who will participate in such discussions nor what they aim to do. Concern that Article 5 not lead to too much too soon is evident from many potential participants, as is doubt that such discussions will lead to anything more than a few add-on confidence and security building measures. In both respects, a dangerous precedent may be setCthat having halted a regional war, the US and its European allies are unable or unwilling to try to create conditions in which rearming and renewing the fighting would be more difficult. Not wanting to affect American forces, the US may choose to ignore a region's armaments rather than impede its own flexibility.

Daniel Nelson spoke at an EES Noon Discussion on March 11, 1998.

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