Dr Paul Vallet: Welcome to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy weekly podcast. I'm your host, Dr Paul Vallet, Associate Fellow with the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative. For the next few weeks, I'm talking with subject- matter experts to explain issues of peace, security, and international cooperation. Thanks for tuning in. Current tensions and flashpoints across the globe remind us not only that escalations into armed confrontations are possible, they also feed the technological development of weapons. And the recent years have also shown that negotiations and efforts at arms control can stall or even suffer setbacks, yet the crises are also the reason that they need to be kept going or to resume. To discuss the situation, I'm joined this week by Marc Finaud. Marc Finaud is the Head of Arms Proliferation activities on the staff of the GCSP. He is a former French diplomat, who was seconded to the GCSP from 2004 to 2013. Mr Marc Finaud joined the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs back in 1977. And along with postings in Leningrad, as was then, Warsaw, Tel Aviv and Sydney, much of his career was connected to the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and also the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, as well as to the French delegation to the United Nations. As well as a diplomat and practitioner Marc Finaud was a lecturer on arms control and disarmament for a postgraduate course at Marne-la-Vallée University. And along with frequent media appearances, he is a very prolific author of numerous articles chapters of books on arms control and disarmament, as well as on the Middle East and International Humanitarian Law. In addition, from August 2013 to May 2015, Marc Finaud was a senior resident fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). Throughout this year, Marc Finaud is leading the July and November courses on Building Arms control capacities in the Middle East and North Africa region, and two in April and December on building capacities for effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. So, you see, we have here a very knowledgeable person on the issues of arms control. So, thank you very much for taking time to join us. And welcome to the podcast Marc.
Mr Marc Finaud: Thank you, Paul, for the invitation and the kind introduction.
Dr Paul Vallet: You're welcome. My first question to you is to resume and get our listeners into the issue which are which is complex. So which arms control negotiations are underway, which have been paused and which are envisioned because of technological or diplomatic developments, but have not yet been formally started between the interested parties?
Mr Marc Finaud: Yes, actually, you pointed to these different categories of negotiations or discussions. So maybe just let's identify these categories. First, there are, of course, the bilateral negotiations mainly between the United States and the Russian Federation. Everybody knows that the main treaty on arms control for nuclear weapons, the New START Treaty, just expired at the beginning of this year, but it was extended by the new Biden Administration for five years. But after this time, there will be a need for a successor treaty. So, negotiations haven't really started between the US and Russia; there will probably be a Summit meeting to launch these new talks. But this is expected. At the moment negotiations, if any, are taking place, most probably within the Administration, within the US actors, the Pentagon, the State Department, the President, etc. Of course, taking into account the arms industry lobby, which is a very important actor in this field. Then you have the regional negotiations or talks, mainly within the OSCE. And they've been dormant for many years, unfortunately. These are the so-called Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Of course, this is related to the tensions and conflicts in Georgia and in Ukraine. So, these agreements unfortunately, have been, in a sense, put to sleep or mothballed, but there is interest and there's pressure to resume these talks because precisely of the current tensions. Then you have the whole spectrum of multilateral treaties, agreements, conferences, treaty bodies, which are, in a sense, ongoing discussions, ongoing talks, but not necessarily negotiations of new agreements. The main forum is the Conference on Disarmament based here in Geneva with limited composition, supposedly negotiating on behalf of the international community, but it actually has stopped negotiating new agreements since 1996. The last agreement it adopted was the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. And since then, it has been unable to agree by consensus on its programme of work to negotiate new agreements. But it doesn't mean that it has stopped working. There are a number of issues on its agenda, mainly nuclear disarmament, Negative Security Assurances (meaning commitments of nuclear-weapon states not to attack non-nuclear weapon states with nuclear weapons); the so-called FMCT, or Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (which means the prohibition of production of fissile material for Nuclear Weapons); and the prevention of an arms race in outer space. So all these items are still under discussion, but there's no consensus to negotiate new agreements. Then you have the whole series of treaty bodies, through existing treaties with their own frameworks, their own organisations, like the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force over 50 years ago, and is monitored, or at least the commitment of non-nuclear weapon states not to acquire nuclear weapons is monitored by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The treaty also has its own life. Every five years, the States Parties meet for to review implementation of the treaty. And the last, the most recent conference was supposed to be held last year, but it was postponed to this year in August, but we still don't know whether it will take place because of the pandemic. Then you have the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which is a paradox because it's been adopted, opened for signature, signed by many countries, ratified by many countries. But it's still not in force because it still lacks ratification of eight countries which are mentioned in the treaty, without the ratification of which the treaty cannot enter into force. But it has its life and its monitoring agency, also based in Vienna. And so that mobilises a whole community. Then we have the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997, which also has its organisation for verifying implementation, based in The Hague, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which meets regularly or constantly, and occasionally reviews the treaty, amends the treaty, or adopts decisions. Then you have the Biological Weapons Convention, which doesn't have a verification regime, but meets regularly here in Geneva, to promote implementation, exchange confidence- building measures, and discuss new ways to promote implementation of the Convention. Then you have a series of treaties dealing with conventional armaments. So far, we talked mostly about weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological); all the rest is conventional. So, we have the Arms Trade Treaty (which is not a disarmament treaty, but it's supposed to regulate international trade in conventional arms; it has a Secretariat, also based in Geneva, and States Parties meet regularly); the Anti-personnel Landmines Treaty; the Cluster Munitions Convention; the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. All these treaties have their own mechanisms or Implementation Support Units, and experts meet regularly to assess their implementation. Then you have the newest treaty adopted in 2017, which entered into force in January this year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is in force: it’s been signed and ratified by over 50 states to enter into force. And this this is the youngest Treaty, which is very controversial: it has been, of course, rejected, opposed by nuclear-armed states and their allies, but it is starting its life; it will have its first meeting of States Parties in January next year. And finally you have the new issues, which you mentioned, the potential agreements on new types of weapons, like cyber weapons or Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (the so-called killer robots), or the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, or hypersonic weapons, space weapons, all these are new technologies, which, of course, can be used for hostile purposes. There are already some discussions, not on all of them. But and at this stage, there is no consensus, there's no agreement to adopt new agreements, although I would say the one which is probably most likely to see a basic understanding or agreement would be the Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. So this is really an oversight of all these agreements, and treaties, which are under discussion or negotiation.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, thank you very much. This was, indeed, also very clear oversight. And in part, it's also answered a bit of my second question, but perhaps you can elaborate a little bit because as you describe not only the difference of frameworks, but also the different categories of weapons. My second question is precisely on these categories. And well, could it be said that those categories of weapons that have been an object of negotiation for a long time actually get attended to in priority in the negotiations, or do the newer categories benefit from that experience to suggest that a negotiation could be open on them, but they're not yet subject to this kind of this kind of negotiation between parties?
Mr Marc Finaud: Yes, obviously, the main driver, the main motivation, to negotiate arms control agreements, or disarmament has been to promote national security, to limit the use of the most destabilising weapons or the weapons which do have the most severe humanitarian consequences in conflict, where now we know that most victims are civilians. So obviously, there are weapons, which you may consider at first less problematic, like Small Arms and Light Weapons, because with a gun or even a machine gun, of course, you can kill a few people in short time, but not huge quantities of people. But the problem is proliferation of these, uncontrolled proliferation, illicit trafficking in these weapons, which have been spreading all over the globe: the estimate is now one billion Small Arms and Light Weapons, and ammunition for these weapons is produced every year, in the in the numbers of billions, something like 14 billion pieces of ammunition every year, that's enough to kill the world population twice every year. At the same time, we have these weapons which have been considered as weapons of deterrence, like nuclear weapons, which we know of course, if they were used intentionally or accidentally, would cause huge casualties, huge damage. And if they were used on a large scale, it could lead to the end of humanity. So, this is the reason why priority has been put until recently mostly on nuclear weapons. First, in a way of preventing their spread, that is the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), but also to promote disarmament and elimination of these weapons, which was also part of the deal in the NPT. But where you see that, depending on how you look at it, there's been huge progress in reducing the numbers from the 70,000 nuclear weapons during the Cold War in the 80s, down to 13,000. You could say that's major progress, but 13,000 is already enough to exterminate humanity several times. So, there's still a lot of work to do, to move towards a nuclear-weapon free world, which is sort of long-term objective that everybody agrees to. So that's why, for this reason of both humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the higher risk of their use, which is the result of first slow progress in disarmament, second, more actors, because proliferation could not be completely stopped, and also evolutions in doctrines from nuclear deterrence, non-use of weapons to actual scenarios of nuclear battle, nuclear use of weapons, in doctrines, but also in types of weapons which have been introduced in arsenals like, low-yield nuclear weapons, tactical weapons, or cruise missiles, which are more manoeuvrable. And then now we have a new category, which is hypersonic missiles, which could be used also with conventional systems or nuclear weapons, and then could actually be an incentive for first strike to destroy or weaken the adversary's retaliation capability. So that would unsettle this delicate strategic balance or balance of terror on which nuclear deterrence relied for so many years. So that explains why there is this new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, to put pressure on nuclear-weapon states to move faster on nuclear disarmament. But these new categories of weapons, which are mentioned, cyberattacks, use of artificial intelligence, hypersonic missiles, all these are types of weapons, which, together with existing nuclear weapon systems, contribute to lowering the threshold of use and encourage first-use, you have this course this constant struggle between defensive systems and offensive systems. And when you have systems which are meant to bypass defences, like hypersonic systems, then, of course, it's an incentive to use them in a first strike.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, that's also very interesting. And I was wondering, in your experience, and your knowledge of the history of this, whether we have an idea which frameworks of negotiation, whether they're bilateral or multilateral, that have proven a bit more effective in reaching a solution, such as, concluding an agreement?
Mr Marc Finaud Well, actually, it's been a sort of combination of both. If you take nuclear weapons, obviously, it started, arms control discussion and negotiation started after the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the world was at the brink of nuclear war. So, it was realised that something needed to be done, at least, to start with the countries with the largest arsenals, the US, and the Soviet Union, and then Russia. So that's why they started their bilateral talks: SALT, and then START, and then the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, then the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF. So, all these were bilateral agreements, which were meant to stabilise this arms race, to channel that arms race to prevent these destabilising developments. In some cases, these bilateral experiences were extended to a multilateral framework. It's clear, for instance, that the Non-Proliferation Treaty could not have existed without some sort of basic understanding between the US and the Soviet Union, which was then extended multilaterally. The same happened with biological weapons: it was an initiative by President Nixon in 1969 to unilaterally cancel the offensive biological programmes of the US and to propose to the Soviet Union to follow suit. And once that agreement was concluded, it could be extended to the rest of the world. And chemical weapons also started, of course, in a multilateral framework, but there were stages in the negotiation where things could only move after a bilateral agreement was concluded. So, again, you know, there is no magic solution, no magic bullet, you also need the political will, the political momentum, the proper understanding of national interests and common interests. So, now, obviously, there is a great interest and great pressure to use this bilateral experience more in the multilateral frameworks. For nuclear disarmament, for instance, there are discussions, which are multilateral on nuclear disarmament verification, which would be only based on bilateral experience. Now, there is agreement to expand this experience. And, of course, this is sensitive, because you cannot spread all sensitive information that could be used by some countries to acquire nuclear weapons. So, that has to be organised, and there are systems where this is possible to combine, to reconcile this need for confidentiality, and in the interest of the international community.
Dr Paul Vallet: Well, ever since the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, civil society advocacy, as well as activism added themselves to, this activity by the states to become actors in arms control. So that was in the field, in which States usually allowed anyone else than the officials to take a role. So, of course, the States were the first initiators and negotiators, but has the trend that the successful International Campaign to Ban Landmines opened, been able to continue to this day?
Mr Marc Finaud Yes, it has actually not only continued, but it has expanded. Well, the starting point was the end of the Cold War. So, with less confrontation between blocs, and the rising awareness that in most conflicts which were mostly internal conflicts, civil wars, not so much interstate conflicts, the vast majority of victims were civilians. So, it was natural that it came from civil society, organisations, Nobel Prize winners, etc. to make progress towards agreements, which of course had to be negotiated and adopted by states, but which had as a main motivation, the main paradigm was to protect civilians, to promote what is called human security or humanitarian disarmament. So that was the trend that started in the 90s, which continued after the landmine ban with the Cluster Munitions Treaty. Also, the Arms Trade Treaty was the first treaty dealing with armaments, which has as one of its main objectives to reduce human suffering. So, you see, really the humanitarian paradigm is very strong. And that was also the main reason why the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was initiated by civil society groups to campaign and then convinced a number of States to support to champion that cause, and eventually to adopt a treaty. So that trend is continuing precisely because potential victims of conflict are still civilians, and it doesn't, of course, prevent states from combining this humanitarian motivation with protection of their national interests. And this is being done throughout the negotiating process, but the result is precisely this combination of national security interests and global interests or humanitarian interests, which is now the main characteristics of these agreements.
Dr Paul Vallet: Thank you very much. Well, we're getting on a bit with time, but I'd like to ask you one last question that takes us to our immediate context. And as you know, we have a set of current international tensions in different regions. And, of course, these are not only recent, but they've been developing for a few years, as well. So, should we actually fear that this current set of tensions could slow down those arms control negotiations that are actually underway?
Mr Marc Finaud Of course, it's always a risk. But when you look back at history, you realise that most international agreements, whether bilateral or multilateral, were adopted in times of high tensions during the Cold War, in 1968, when the NPT was adopted, there was invasion of Czechoslovakia, still the Vietnam War, etc. It always happened. And the main conclusion that we should keep in mind is that, precisely we need these negotiations, these arms control agreements, more than ever, when there are international tensions. You of course, you allude to the current violence in the Middle East. Obviously, this brings back to the top of the agenda these attempts, which have been ongoing to limit or prohibit the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. This is a typical humanitarian motivated negotiation or agreement, which will have major consequences, major positive consequences, again, benefiting civilians. So, you know, this is the same with what's been happening in the OSCE, because of the tensions with Russia after the war in Georgia, and the invasion of Crimea, and the tensions in Ukraine, it was considered to freeze all the existing agreements, which is exactly the contrary of what should be done. Now more than ever, when there are tensions, when there are risks of escalation, getting out of control, we need all these types of confidence-building measures, transparency measures, communications between the military to avoid conflict. It’s the same between India and Pakistan in which were on the brink of nuclear war several times. It always starts with a conventional conflict, but we need to prevent any escalation leading to potential nuclear war.
Dr Paul Vallet: Obviously, as a central topic to international security, and we could talk about it for hours, but you've really managed to give us a very extensive analysis in the course of this half-hour. So, it's all we have time for today. But I want to thank you very much, Marc Finaud, for this extensive analysis, and really something that our listeners will enjoy. So, thank you very much.
Mr Marc Finaud: Thank you, Paul
Dr Paul Vallet: So, to our listeners, I wish that you can listen to us again next week to hear the latest insights on peace, security, and international cooperation. Don't forget that you can still subscribe to us on Anchor FM on Apple iTunes, you can follow us on Spotify and on SoundCloud. I'm Dr Paul Vallet with the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. And until next week, bye for now.
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