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‘Tough times for arms control,’ NATO chief says

Jens Stoltenberg speaks at the Nordic Council Session 2010. (Magnus Fröderberg/Nordic Co-operation/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that arms-control regimes need to adapt to “new realities” to remain effective, citing Russia’s disregard for its international commitments and the emergence of new actors and technologies.

“These are tough times for arms control,” Stoltenberg told the NATO-organized High-Level Public Diplomacy Arms Control Conference in Brussels on October 23, adding that “the global arms-control regime that has served us so well is eroding.”

The NATO chief emphasized that the Western military alliance’s commitment to arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation while pointing to Russia’s “negative record on arms control,” which he said included its deployment of new missile systems in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the INF Treaty following years of accusations that Moscow had developed a ground-launched cruise missile in violation of the pact’s restrictions.

The move, reciprocated by Moscow, sparked concerns of a new arms race between the world’s leading nuclear-armed powers.

Russia in 2007 suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which limits the number of conventional military equipment in Europe, while NATO allies continue to comply with the accord, Stoltenberg said.

Besides, Moscow has “a record of circumventing” Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) rules known as the Vienna Document, which provides for inspections of military activities and exercises, he added.

Stoltenberg also accused North Korea and Iran of “blatantly ignoring or breaking the global rules and spreading dangerous missile technology around the world.”

The “rise of China” also has implications for the existing arms-control regime, he said, noting that the country now had the world’s second-biggest defense budget after the United States and was “increasing the size and the sophistication of its missile arsenal.”

NATO needed to “act together to reflect these new realities,” Stoltenberg said.

“We need to preserve and implement the [Nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty. We need to adapt nuclear arms-control regimes to new realities. We need to modernize the Vienna Document. And we need to consider how to develop new rules and standards for emerging technologies, including advanced missile technology,” he said.