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The New START Treaty between the US and Russia: The last surviving pillar of nuclear arms control

22-03-2021

The US and Russia both have formidable arsenals of potentially destructive nuclear weapons. Although a nuclear-free world remains a distant dream, the two countries have taken steps to limit the risk of nuclear conflict, through a series of arms control agreements limiting the number of strategic weapons that each can have. In force since 2011, the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) is the latest of these agreements. Under New START, Russia and the US are limited to an equal number ...

The US and Russia both have formidable arsenals of potentially destructive nuclear weapons. Although a nuclear-free world remains a distant dream, the two countries have taken steps to limit the risk of nuclear conflict, through a series of arms control agreements limiting the number of strategic weapons that each can have. In force since 2011, the New Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (New START) is the latest of these agreements. Under New START, Russia and the US are limited to an equal number of deployed strategic warheads and weapons carrying them, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles. To ensure compliance, there are strict counting rules and transparency requirements, giving each side a reliable picture of the other's strategic nuclear forces. The 2019 collapse of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty left New START as the only major surviving US-Russia arms control agreement. In early 2021, with New START due to expire in February and the two sides deadlocked over the conditions for extending it, it looked as if the last remaining restrictions on the world's two main nuclear powers were about to lapse. Following a last-minute reprieve by newly elected US President, Joe Biden, the two parties agreed to extend New START until 2026, thereby giving each other welcome breathing space to negotiate a replacement treaty. There are still many unanswered questions about the kind of weapons that a future treaty could include.

Russia's armed forces: Defence capabilities and policy

10-03-2021

Reforms launched under Vladimir Putin have restored some of the Russian armed forces' former glory. Russia now has a streamlined, mobile and mostly professional military, equipped with modern weapons. The impact of these changes was visible in Syria, Russia's first military intervention outside the post-Soviet region. Despite this increased capability, there are demographic and financial constraints on Russian military power. The armed forces are not attracting enough recruits to go fully professional ...

Reforms launched under Vladimir Putin have restored some of the Russian armed forces' former glory. Russia now has a streamlined, mobile and mostly professional military, equipped with modern weapons. The impact of these changes was visible in Syria, Russia's first military intervention outside the post-Soviet region. Despite this increased capability, there are demographic and financial constraints on Russian military power. The armed forces are not attracting enough recruits to go fully professional, and therefore still need conscripts – who are less well-trained than career soldiers – to make up the numbers. Moscow has spent billions of dollars on new weapons, such as the innovative nuclear missiles unveiled by President Putin in 2018, but not all branches of the armed forces are equally well equipped. Russia's increasingly assertive foreign policy raises the question of how much of a threat its military represents. Officially, the role of the armed forces is to defend Russian territory, but in practice Moscow uses military force to assert control over its post-Soviet sphere of influence, for example in Ukraine. Russia also uses hybrid methods such as cyber-attacks, including against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. NATO's overall numerical superiority means that Russia is likely to avoid all-out war with the alliance. However, the risk that it might use nuclear weapons and other niche strengths to escape retaliation for a limited attack (for example in the Baltic region) cannot be entirely discounted.

The end of the INF Treaty? A pillar of European security architecture at risk

04-02-2019

The US administration announced on 1 February 2019 that it was suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, with effect from 2 February 2019, and that it was giving Russia six months' notice of complete withdrawal. Russia reacted by announcing that it was also suspending its obligations under the Treaty. Both parties said they would begin developing new nuclear-capable missiles banned by the treaty. The 1987 INF Treaty is a landmark nuclear-arms-control treaty ...

The US administration announced on 1 February 2019 that it was suspending its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, with effect from 2 February 2019, and that it was giving Russia six months' notice of complete withdrawal. Russia reacted by announcing that it was also suspending its obligations under the Treaty. Both parties said they would begin developing new nuclear-capable missiles banned by the treaty. The 1987 INF Treaty is a landmark nuclear-arms-control treaty between the United States (US) and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that eliminated and prohibited ground-launched intermediate ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5 500 km. The US announcement follows years of allegations that the Russian Federation has acted in breach of the agreement. Russia, for its part, has also accused the US of violating the treaty. Both deny the allegations. Moreover, both parties consider that the agreement puts their countries at a strategic disadvantage vis-à-vis other nuclear powers, especially China. The parties' announcements undermine a cornerstone of the European security order. The signing of the INF Treaty in 1987 led to the removal and destruction of nearly 3 000 US and Soviet short-, medium- and intermediate-range nuclear-capable missiles stationed in or aimed at Europe. The EU has called on the US to consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF for its own security, the security of its allies and that of the whole world. The EU has also called on both the US and Russia to remain engaged in constructive dialogue to preserve the INF Treaty, and on Russia to address the serious concerns regarding its compliance with the treaty. NATO considers Russia to be in violation of the INF Treaty, and the alliance has called on Russia to return urgently to full and verifiable compliance with the agreement. Any redeployment of intermediate-range missiles will put Europe once more in the line of fire of strategic nuclear weapons. If the INF Treaty is abrogated, Europeans will be faced with stark choices all carrying inherent security risks, including engaging in a deployment race with Russia, or refusing re-deployment of US missiles on European soil, potentially leaving European countries exposed to Russian intimidation. Efforts over the next six months will focus on preserving the INF Treaty against all odds.

Control of the acquisition and possession of weapons

23-06-2017

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, in November 2015 the European Commission presented a package of measures aiming to tighten control on the acquisition and possession of firearms in the European Union, improve traceability of legally held firearms and enhance cooperation between Member States, as well as ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable. The proposal to amend the current 'Firearms Directive' (Directive 91/477/EEC) was part of this package. It aimed to ban some ...

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, in November 2015 the European Commission presented a package of measures aiming to tighten control on the acquisition and possession of firearms in the European Union, improve traceability of legally held firearms and enhance cooperation between Member States, as well as ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable. The proposal to amend the current 'Firearms Directive' (Directive 91/477/EEC) was part of this package. It aimed to ban some semi-automatic firearms for civilian use, as well as to include some previously excluded actors (collectors and brokers) and blank-firing weapons within the scope of the Directive. Parliament and Council reached agreement on the proposal in December, and formally adopted it in March and April respectively. The new directive reduces the number of weapons categories and changes the classification of certain types of weapons, while strictly defining exceptions for civilian use of the most dangerous weapons. It entered into force on 13 June 2017, with the deadline for transposition of most provisions set at 14 September 2018. This updates a briefing of January 2017, drafted by Jana Valant: PE 595.875.

Control of the acquisition and possession of weapons

25-05-2016

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, in November 2015 the European Commission presented a package of measures aiming to tighten control on the acquisition and possession of firearms in the European Union, improve traceability of legally held firearms and enhance cooperation between Member States, as well as ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable. The proposal to amend the current 'Firearms Directive' (Directive 91/477/EEC) was part of this package. It aims to ban some ...

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, in November 2015 the European Commission presented a package of measures aiming to tighten control on the acquisition and possession of firearms in the European Union, improve traceability of legally held firearms and enhance cooperation between Member States, as well as ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered inoperable. The proposal to amend the current 'Firearms Directive' (Directive 91/477/EEC) was part of this package. It aims to ban some semi-automatic firearms for civilian use, as well as to include some previously excluded actors (collectors and brokers) and blank-firing weapons within the scope of the Directive. Stakeholders commented particularly on the proposed ban on some semi-automatic firearms and the obligation for collectors to deactivate firearms. The Justice and Home Affairs Council held a debate on the file in March 2016. Parliament's Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee is expected to adopt its report in June 2016. A more recent edition of this document is available. Find it by searching by the document title at this address: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/home.html

Illicit small arms and light weapons: International and EU action

13-07-2015

Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are one of the main instruments of armed violence around the world, both in conflict and non-conflict situations, with significant impact on entire societies from a humanitarian and socio-economic point of view. The international community, in particular the United Nations, has identified the proliferation and traffic of illicit SALW as an important field of action, and in this context, it has established a binding framework to prevent, combat and ultimately ...

Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are one of the main instruments of armed violence around the world, both in conflict and non-conflict situations, with significant impact on entire societies from a humanitarian and socio-economic point of view. The international community, in particular the United Nations, has identified the proliferation and traffic of illicit SALW as an important field of action, and in this context, it has established a binding framework to prevent, combat and ultimately eradicate the illicit trade in SALW in all its aspects. The main political process – the UN Programme of Action – emerged from the disarmament and arms control agenda, while the legally binding Firearms Protocol is part of international law enforcement cooperation. Recently, the Arms Trade Treaty has made a significant addition to the efforts of regulating trade in SALW. The European Union is an active promoter of the instruments and processes aimed at fighting against illicit SALW: it has created its own policy framework on firearms and SALW, it is a staunch supporter of norms at international level and an important provider of assistance to countries around the world to deal with the illicit trade and proliferation of SALW.

Russia: Arms control and non-proliferation

22-06-2015

Arms control and non-proliferation agreements are an important part of Europe's post-Cold War security order, now looking increasingly fragile due to the Ukraine crisis. Numerous concerns have been raised about Russia's commitments on weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.

Arms control and non-proliferation agreements are an important part of Europe's post-Cold War security order, now looking increasingly fragile due to the Ukraine crisis. Numerous concerns have been raised about Russia's commitments on weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.

The Arms Trade Treaty: Finally an outcome and what next?

29-05-2013

The fruit of years of negotiations and intensive civil society campaigning, the recent agreement of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has been widely presented as a major achievement. Exceptionally it was adopted by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The wide scope of the treaty, which includes small arms and light weapons (SALW) and, to some extent ammunition, alongside the main conventional arms has satisfied most stakeholders. The major hindrance for the impact of the ATT relates ...

The fruit of years of negotiations and intensive civil society campaigning, the recent agreement of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has been widely presented as a major achievement. Exceptionally it was adopted by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The wide scope of the treaty, which includes small arms and light weapons (SALW) and, to some extent ammunition, alongside the main conventional arms has satisfied most stakeholders. The major hindrance for the impact of the ATT relates to uncertainty about its global relevance.

Human Rights Implications of the Usage of Drones and Unmanned Robots in Warfare

03-05-2013

In recent years, the use of drones and other unmanned robots in warfare and other situations of violence has increased exponentially, and States continue to invest significantly into increasing the operational autonomy of such systems. The present study provides an overview of the current and likely future use of such systems and examines the relevant legal implications under human rights law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. The study concludes that the present sense of uncertainty ...

In recent years, the use of drones and other unmanned robots in warfare and other situations of violence has increased exponentially, and States continue to invest significantly into increasing the operational autonomy of such systems. The present study provides an overview of the current and likely future use of such systems and examines the relevant legal implications under human rights law, international humanitarian law and the UN Charter. The study concludes that the present sense of uncertainty as to the applicable legal standards, the rapid development and proliferation of drone and robotic technology, and the perceived lack of transparency and accountability of current policies have the potential of polarizing the international community, undermining the rule of law and, ultimately, of destabilizing the international security environment as a whole. Accordingly, the study develops the following policy recommendations for European foreign policy: 1. First, the EU should make the promotion of the rule of law in relation to the development, proliferation and use of unmanned weapons systems a declared priority of European foreign policy. 2. In parallel, the EU should launch a broad inter-governmental policy dialogue aiming to achieve international consensus: (a) on the legal standards governing the use of currently operational unmanned weapon systems, and (b) on the legal constraints and/or ethical reservations which may apply with regard to the future development, proliferation and use of increasingly autonomous weapon systems. 3. Based on the resulting international consensus, the EU should work towards the adoption of a binding international agreement, or a non-binding code of conduct, aiming to restrict the development, proliferation or use of certain unmanned weapon systems in line with the legal consensus achieved.

Zunanji avtor

Nils MELZER (Geneva Centre for Security Policy - GCSP and Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law, Geneva Academy - ADH)

Drones: Engaging in Debate and Accountability

25-04-2013

Remotely piloted vehicles or aircraft are not an invention of the late 20th or early 21st century. Adding weapons to UAVs was proposed as early as the late 1940s, although these armed UAVs only came into use decades later. Remotely-piloted systems are also used in science, agriculture, environmental protection, goods transport and border security. New opportunities, such the use of RPAS for regulating air traffic, reveal the challenges in cyber security, privacy protection, national and public security ...

Remotely piloted vehicles or aircraft are not an invention of the late 20th or early 21st century. Adding weapons to UAVs was proposed as early as the late 1940s, although these armed UAVs only came into use decades later. Remotely-piloted systems are also used in science, agriculture, environmental protection, goods transport and border security. New opportunities, such the use of RPAS for regulating air traffic, reveal the challenges in cyber security, privacy protection, national and public security, and structural changes. Shifting demands, new UAV market entrants and increasing competition in the global market will challenge traditional (combat) aircraft industry structures. Innovation requires political and societal debate. Innovation in defence requires even more of this debate. Drones do not alter what the military does. Debate, organised at the European level, could develop a set of rules regarding the use of RPAS.

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