Multilateral Arms Control as a Response to NBC Proliferation: a New Transatlantic Divide?

  • Alexander Kelle


While Europe and the United States have been involved together in various arms control1 negotiations since the 1950s, they have not always seen eye to eye with regard to the objectives to be pursued through such negotiations, the means by which to achieve goals, or the role of arms control in the overall strategic landscape. More often than not, it was the US that was the engine that drove forward arms control proposals, with at least some Europeans only following on reluctantly. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), for example, was an agreement over which certain European countries, such as Germany and Italy, faced bitter domestic debates about ratification. Yet continuous exposure to arms control negotiations, together with the on-site verification measures carried out in European states — some of which originated in the 1950s, as in the case of the Western European Union’s Agency for the Control of Armaments2 — led over time to a widespread European acceptance of arms control as a legitimate tool of security policy. In the nuclear realm, cooperative arms control measures have, through EURATOM, become part of the overall European effort at overcoming the past divisions of the continent through a number of integrative efforts, including multilateral control measures.3 As a result, for most Europeans, arms control has over time acquired a normative quality that goes well beyond the narrow scope that ‘traditional’ US arms controllers have come to attribute to the concept.4 When taken to extremes, therefore, normatists can end up asking ‘what can we do for arms control’, instead of the more traditional, or utilitarian approach, which is more interested in the question of ‘what can arms control do for us’ in the pursuit of national security interests.5


Nuclear Weapon Nuclear Disarmament Review Conference Chemical Weapon Convention Preparatory Committee 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Alexander Kelle

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