Disarmament and arms control are overlapping areas. The first is concerned with the substantial reduction or complete elimination of those weapons with which nations can commit aggression and wage war, given that the continued existence of nuclear weapons must sooner or later lead to war escalating to an unimaginable level of destructiveness. Arms control implies some form of collaboration between adversary states, involving either formal or tacit agreement, aimed at limited control in well-defined areas. The latter is considered more realistic, but it does not lead to the former. A very considerable range of disarmament proposals have been considered or negotiated with almost no tangible results, excepting a number of arms control agreements in areas of no military interest, or treaties of no significance, or having little probability of entering into force or being realistically implemented.
Some 19 protocols, treaties, agreements and other international instruments of accord have been generated in the interests of arms control since 1948. Negotiating sessions, productive and non-productive, between the super-powers alone are counted in the thousands. Strategic arms limitations talks are continuing in Geneva under the acronym "START" (strategic arms reduction talks), while nuclear and other armament is increasing and proliferating.
A register of arms transfers, proposed in 1991 by the Group of Seven, is a silly idea. Every country with good intelligence knows perfectly well what is being transferred and to whom. A register would contribute nothing to the existing store of knowledge from existing sources. It could never be a detailed inventory of arms transfers, nor stop undesirable transfers, without legally enforceable powers of investigation, and that means a treaty. The G-7 countries themselves do not want such a treaty, since so much of the economic activity is invested in exporting weapons. It takes little imagination to foresee a major political pressure group building up, trying to analyze the strategic importance of the information in the register, doing so incompetently and lobbying domestically because it has formed the view that a certain country has too many weapons. How awkward if such a group managed to stymie the export prospects and foreign policy aspirations of the G-7 states, to the benefit of the Russia or China.
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