Events in 2019 such as the termination of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, further missile tests in North Korea and the use of chemical weapons in Syria showed that global arms control efforts are currently under significant pressure. Against this backdrop, the Federal Government is pursuing a number of initiatives with the aim of counteracting the erosion of the rules-based order.
Arms control under increasing pressure
- With the termination of the INF treaty between Russia and the USA last year due to Russian breaches of the treaty obligations, an important element of the international security architecture has been lost.
- The future of the New START Treaty, which is due to expire in early 2021, is also uncertain. The treaty limits the strategic arsenals of the nuclear weapon states Russia and the USA.
- As has been shown by the missile tests carried out by North Korea and the increasing withdrawal of Iran from the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, countries that have acquired nuclear weapons, or those that could acquire them in the future, pose a very real threat.
- New types of weapons system and technical developments, as well as new domains of conflict such as space and cyberspace, have the potential to fundamentally change the nature of armed conflict.
In the words of Foreign Minister Maas:
Multilateral cooperation is our best option if we are to successfully overcome existing and emerging challenges.
Our shared commitment must not abate
Germany is strongly committed to counteracting these trends and to working together with like-minded partners to achieve this aim. As early as 2018, Foreign Minister Maas established a strong platform for greater international cooperation with the launch of the “Alliance for Multilateralism”. In 2019, the Federal Government set up a number of initiatives with the aim of strengthening the international arms control architecture:
- Germany put the subject of nuclear disarmament on the agenda of the UN Security Council and Foreign Minister Maas invited the 16 members of the Stockholm Initiative for Nuclear Disarmament to Berlin to elaborate proposals on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
- With support from Germany, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was able to set up an Investigation and Identification Team with the purpose of investigating and identifying those responsible for the use of banned chemical weapons in Syria. The team has recently submitted its first report.
- In March 2019, Foreign Minister Maas convened a high-level conference on new types of weapons system, which led to the creation of the Missile Dialogue Initiative, a network of experts focusing on developments in the field of missile technology.
- Under the German presidency, it was also possible to reach a political agreement on guiding principles relating to key aspects of the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) – an important step towards a worldwide ban on “killer robots”.