January 14, 2014 | Issue Brief on Arms Control and Nonproliferation
After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in September, a bipartisan majority of the Senate stated its opposition to ratifying the treaty. Over the past months, the dangers of the ATT have become increasingly obvious, and supporters of the treaty have been increasingly assertive in their claims and their criticism of the United States. The wisdom of the Senate’s opposition to the treaty having already been amply demonstrated, it is time for both the Senate and the House to hold hearings on the ATT.
On October 15, Senators Jerry Moran (R–KS) and Joe Manchin (D–WV) released a letter signed by 50 Senators pledging to oppose the ATT. A parallel House letter, led by Representatives Mike Kelly (R–PA) and Collin Peterson (D–MN) and signed by 181 Representatives, was released simultaneously. On October 21, four Democratic Senators, led by Jon Tester (D–MT), released a similar letter. Today, a bipartisan majority of 53 sitting Senators opposes the ATT.
In June, one treaty supporter stated that the ATT was “absolutely toxic” on Capitol Hill. By late October, that toxicity reached lethal levels, as reflected by the acceptance of an amendment offered by Kelly to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, which was signed into law on December 26, 2013. As amended, the act bans the use of funds by the Department of Defense to implement the ATT unless the treaty receives the advice and consent of the Senate and is the subject of implementing legislation. But as the treaty supporter noted, they have a “long-term strategy” to secure U.S. ratification.
They also have a long-term agenda for the ATT: to secure its rapid ratification in as many nations as possible, while establishing the treaty’s institutions, defining its ambiguous terms in ways that suit their agenda, planning its expansion, and attacking the United States.
To date, 115 nations have signed the treaty, and nine have ratified it. That number will grow rapidly as the 28 member nations of the European Union ratify, and it is likely that the necessary 50 ratifications will have brought the treaty into force no later than 2015. On December 5, the U.N. General Assembly—with 152 nations in favor, none opposed, and 29 abstaining—adopted a resolution calling on all nations to ratify the ATT at “the earliest possible date.”
Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia, the president of the March 2013 ATT conference, has stated that the ATT was “ultimately only a framework” and called on his audience to “keep working and building” on it. The treaty supporters now want to fill in this framework. This is partly a matter of establishing the treaty secretariat, and partly a matter of assiduous demands from many nations for financial assistance, without which they will supposedly be unable to fulfill the binding treaty requirements they so eagerly accepted.
But more significant are a series of other developments. Collectively, these events demonstrate the dangers posed by the ATT to the conduct of U.S. foreign and domestic policy and the efforts made by prominent treaty advocates to criticize the United States:
The opposition of the Senate and the House to the treaty is clear. But in the three months since the U.S. signed the ATT, the treaty’s proponents have shown yet again that they seek to use it to constrain the U.S., that leading proponents are biased against the U.S., and that they wish to expand the scope of the ATT and incorporate it into the wider U.N. gun-control agenda. Particularly given the dangerous Administration doctrine that signature of the ATT creates the open-ended obligation to achieve vague ideals, it is essential that both the Senate and the House hold hearings to make it clear that the ATT will have no effect on U.S. policy unless and until it is properly ratified.
—Ted R. Bromund, PhD, is Senior Research Fellow in Anglo-American Relations in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a department of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
Niels Lesniewski, “Arms Treaty Stymied by Second Amendment Concerns in Senate,” Roll Call, October 22, 2013, http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/arms-treaty-stymied-by-2nd-amendment-concerns-in-senate/ (accessed January 6, 2014).
Cheryl K. Chumley, “U.S. Skips Signing Ceremony for U.N. Arms Treaty,” Washington Times, June 3, 2013, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/3/us-skips-signing-ceremony-un-arms-treaty/ (accessed January 6, 2014).
Ambassador Peter Woolcott, “The Work of the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty,” October 23, 2013, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com13/statements/23Oct_ATTPresident.pdf (accessed January 5, 2014).
For example, statement by Adiobun Richards Adejola, Minister, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the U.N., October 30, 2013, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com13/statements/30Oct_Nigeria.pdf (accessed January 8, 2014).
Editorial, “Shortsighted Arms Deregulation,” The New York Times, October 18, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/19/opinion/shortsighted-arms-deregulation.html?_r=0 (accessed January 7, 2014).
See also Ted R. Bromund, “How Liberal Anti-Gun Activists View the American Constitution,” July 8, 2013, Foxnews.com, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/07/08/how-liberal-anti-gun-activists-view-american-constitution/ (accessed January 7, 2014).
Óscar Arias Sanchez , “Don’t Arm Thy Neighbor,” October 23, 2013, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/opinion/international/dont-arm-thy-neighbor.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1382625655-GFAKqYIabn4/B2E59UprTw&_r=0 (accessed January 7, 2014).
Matthew Bolton and Wim Zwijnenburg, “Futureproofing: Making Sure the Arms Trade Treaty Controls Drones and New Robotic Weapons,” Control Arms, November 7, 2013, http://controlarmsblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/futureproofing-making-sure-the-arms-trade-treaty-controls-drones-and-new-robotic-weapons-2/ (accessed January 8, 2014); Philip Alston, “Did the UN General Assembly Let the US Entirely Off the Hook on the Right to Privacy?,” Just Security, December 2, 2013, http://justsecurity.org/2013/12/02/philip-alston-un-general-assembly-resolution-right-privacy/ (accessed January 8, 2014); and Michele G. Markoff, statement to the Sixty-Eighth UNGA First Committee, October 30, 2013, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com13/statements/30Oct_US-other.pdf (accessed January 8, 2014).
Emma Ensign, “Arms Trade Treaty,” First Committee Monitor, No. 2, October 14, 2013, http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/FCM13/FCM-2013-2.pdf (accessed January 8, 2014); and U.N. Program of Action Implementation Support System, “Firearms Protocol,” http://www.poa-iss.org/FirearmsProtocol/FirearmsProtocol.aspx (accessed January 8, 2014).