The use of the existing WMD free zones as an exemple and a potential Framework for further initiatives banning ballistic missiles

By Benjamin Hautecouverture, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique


Taken as a wide-ranging notion, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have not produced significant instruments in international security over time, UNSCR1540 being an exception. As such, there are no existing WMD free zones (WMDFZ) which can be used as examples and as potential frameworks for further initiatives banning ballistic missiles.

The MTCR has been the only multilateral effort and instrument to curb missile proliferation until the adoption of the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC). There is no multilateral legally binding instrument against the spread of ballistic missiles either in force or under negotiation.

The purpose of this study is twofold: first, it is to assess the potentiality of the WMDFZ approach to curb the proliferation of ballistic missiles; second, it is to draw lessons from the implementation of the seven nuclear weapon-free zones (NWFZ) being in force as potential frameworks for new initiatives against the proliferation of ballistic missiles.

If the notion of a NWFZ is by no means new, the notion of a WMDFZ is more recent. It was diplomatically mooted by Egypt in 1990 in the form of the “Mubarak proposal”, concerning the Middle East. The two notions have subsequently formally coexisted and taken shape, if not as a political project at least as a diplomatic reality in various arenas.

Since its diplomatic formulation by General Assembly Resolution 4630 in 1991, the goal of a WMDFZ in the Middle East continued to be addressed during the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly. It resurfaced in a regional framework: the “Madrid process” and in the NPT Review Process. This double dynamic has not made any quantifiable progress so far. It must be added, however, that whereas the regional approaches to address WMD generally do not imply delivery vehicles, the zonal approach in the Middle East has been an exception: the issue of delivery vehicles has become part of the scope of such a future zone over time.
As to the NWFZs, a general assessment can be proposed for the Latin American, South Pacific, South-East Asian and African NWFZs and several lessons can be drawn: NWFZs were designed to fit the particular needs and constraints of a region. All NWFZs were built on an existing regional architecture for cooperation and security. Each NWFZ was negotiated among a limited number of parties. CBMs preceded the establishment of the zone. Peace was a condition. Once it prevailed, agreeing to establish a zone was not an issue. Last, regional initiatives, whatever their success or their failure, provide a solid basis and background materials for future global negotiations.

These lessons could prove useful for further initiatives banning ballistic missiles worldwide.
Given the particular dynamics indicating that the Middle Eastern region may face a conventional missile race in the near future, this paper insists on two specific initiatives:

• First, Iran might be willing to abide by missile limits as part of a region-wide effort to ban longer-range ballistic missile systems. The EU could encourage regional track 2 dialogues on this issue as a first step.

• Second, the co-conveners of the so called “2012 Helsinki conference” could encourage, and support, a region-wide effort to negotiate a ban on missiles capable of carrying WMD. Such effort could be proposed and supported by the EU during the current NPT review process towards 2020.

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