Opening HCoC to cruise missiles: A proposal to overcome political hurdles

By Stéphane Delory, Emmanuelle Maitre et Jean Masson

HCoC Research Paper n°5, February 2019

The issue of extending the scope of the Hague Code of Conduct to cruise missiles is regularly raised in academic and political discussions about the Code. Some non-subscribing States justify their refusal to join the instrument because of this exclusion, perceived as a major flaw. Indeed, cruise missiles have characteristics that can make them very effective in carrying weapons of mass destruction. It is therefore clearly of interest to consider extending the HCoC scope to these weapons.

Nevertheless, cruise missiles are also used as conventional missiles. It is unthinkable for States acquiring and using cruise missiles in theatres of operation to adopt confidence-building measures such as test notifications. Specifying and limiting the type of cruise missiles to be considered would thus be necessary. In view of the technological characteristics of current systems, only a functional criterion based on political declarations would be appropriate. States would be invited to pre-notify and declare “systems used to deliver weapons of mass destruction”, on the basis of good faith. This standard would have limitations and could be criticized for lacking ambition and neglecting potentially proliferating systems. Nevertheless, as the current positions of subscribing States range from a lack of interest to clear hostility, a partial introduction of cruise missiles in the Code seems to be the only option acceptable at the political and strategic level.

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