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Objectives by Issue (Evaluative Criteria): 1998 Birmingham Summit

Arms Control

Objectives for Birmingham ~ Other possible issues

Objectives for the Birmingham Summit

  1. Strengthen the international financial support for the de-mining of anti-personnel landmines in the wake of the Ottawa Treaty.

    Although only six members of the Group of Eight signed the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines, the two non-signatories (the United States and Russia) have signalled their willingness to participate in the terms of the treaty as much as they are able. In particular, the United States is spearheading an effort to increase international funding for mine clearance with its "De-mining 2010 Initiative". Following the Birmingham Summit, the US plans to host an international conference on de-mining in Washington (May 20-22) to bring together key donor governments, international organizations, and regional organizations representing mine-affected countries. The United States will seek G8 support for this initiative, perhaps in the form of a G8-sponsored funding plan. The six signatories of the Ottawa treaty (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK) will no doubt use the forum of the G8 to influence the United States and Russia to sign the treaty at the earliest possible opportunity. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, a vocal advocate for the international treaty, stated it is necessary that both the United States and Russia, as well as China, officially enter into the treaty because to remain outside this agreement would stigmatize those countries.

    With a majority of nations signing the Ottawa treaty, the concentration on landmines within the G8 will now turn toward the issues of their removal and disposal, as well as aid to those injured by these devices. It is likely these issues will be discussed at Birmingham and a preview of a variety of international initiatives in these areas will be unveiled as a prelude to the Washington Conference.

  2. Reinforce the necessity of the START II Treaty ratification by Russia and support the beginning of negotiations toward START III.

    Although both the United States and Russia have signed the Strategic Arms Reduction II Treaty, the treaty remains unratified by Russia. Boris Yeltsin has waged a long-term battle with the mainly communist Duma in his efforts to achieve ratification, but has so far remained unsuccessful. Controversy in Russia over the START II Treaty stems from Russian concerns that the United States is developing weapons that could violate the 1972 ABM Treaty, as well as fears that the cost of implementing START II will be more than Russia can bear.

    The United States has increased the pressure on Yeltsin to use all of his leverage with the Duma, as they have strongly hinted the ratification of START II is a necessary precondition before plans can be made for the next bilateral Summit between the US and Russia. Signals emanating from the Duma with regards to START II ratification have been favourable in the past few months. Parliamentarians such as Vladimir Lukin (head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament), have stated that START II "can and must" be ratified before the end of the current parliamentary session in June. Lukin has also noted that "more and more deputies, including ones from the leftist opposition, are starting to understand that ratification of this document is in Russia's interests."

    START II slashes both American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads by up to two-thirds, taking the stockpile from approximately 6,000 each to no more than 3,500 each by the year 2007. Yeltsin and Clinton agreed at their last bilateral summit in Helsinki to open negotiations on START III as soon as START II entered into force.

  3. Develop support for an international treaty to limit small arms.

    Due to the success of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, many of the signatories have begun to consider negotiations toward an international treaty banning small arms. "In the technology of warfare, indiscriminate weapons should be more discriminate," noted Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy in a recent address to Harvard students. Axworthy, the major proponent of the landmine treaty, believes the necessary international support for a similar treaty on small arms would produce beneficial results.

Other Possible Issues

Another possible topic for discussion at the Birmingham Summit in the area of arms control is the Canadian proposal to recycle weapons grade plutonium (referred to as mixed oxide or "MOX fuel") from dismantled Soviet missiles. The Canadians intend to use this plutonium as fuel for CANDU nuclear reactors. The proposal shows obvious benefits as Canadian studies have confirmed that MOX plutonium yields a higher amount of energy than the uranium that is now used in most nuclear reactors. The proposal is also seen as beneficial since it finds a use for discarded nuclear materials. Yet in the face of these obvious advantages, the proposal for burning MOX fuel remains controversial. Leading proponents of the plan, including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), state it contributes to non-proliferation in the post-Cold War era, yet many academics, as well as the United States department of energy, see the MOX fuel proposal as having the opposite effect in the long-run. According to these critics, the more widespread the usage of MOX fuel in nuclear reactors, the easier it is for rogue states to obtain the materials to construct nuclear weapons. It is likely that the G8 leaders will pursue this very important issue in their discussions in Birmingham, yet it is unlikely that there will be any consensus on the nature of the proposal until after the scheduled test burns are conducted later this year.

Document prepared by: Gina Stephens
22 April 1998

~ Objectives by Issue (Evaluative Criteria): 1998 Birmingham Summit ~


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