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Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares in the United Nations garden (1957) Schwerter zu Pflugscharen - Jewgeni Wutschetitsch - Geschenk der Sowjetunion an die UNO - 1959.jpg
Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares in the United Nations garden (1957)

Disarmament is the act of reducing, limiting, or abolishing weapons. Disarmament generally refers to a country's military or specific type of weaponry. Disarmament is often taken to mean total elimination of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear arms. General and Complete Disarmament was defined by the United Nations General Assembly as the elimination of all WMD, coupled with the “balanced reduction of armed forces and conventional armaments, based on the principle of undiminished security of the parties with a view to promoting or enhancing stability at a lower military level, taking into account the need of all States to protect their security.” [1]



At the Hague Peace Conferences in 1899 and 1907 government delegations debated about disarmament and the creation of an international court with binding powers. The court was considered necessary because it was understood that nation-states could not disarm into a vacuum. After World War I revulsion at the futility and tremendous cost of the war was widespread. A commonly held belief was that the cause of the war had been the escalating buildup of armaments in the previous half century among the great powers (see Anglo-German naval arms race). Although the Treaty of Versailles effectively disarmed Germany, a clause was inserted that called on all the great powers to likewise progressively disarm over a period of time. The newly formed League of Nations made this an explicit goal in the covenant of the league, which committed its signatories to reduce armaments 'to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations'. [2]

Battleships being dismantled for scrap in Philadelphia Navy Yard, after the Washington Naval Treaty imposed limits on capital ships Scrapping Battleships 1923.jpg
Battleships being dismantled for scrap in Philadelphia Navy Yard, after the Washington Naval Treaty imposed limits on capital ships
Martin Kobler addresses attendees at a disarmament ceremony in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo Martin Kobler addresses a ceremony.jpg
Martin Kobler addresses attendees at a disarmament ceremony in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

One of the earliest successful achievements in disarmament was obtained with the Washington Naval Treaty. Signed by the governments of Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy, it prevented the continued construction of capital ships and limited ships of other classification to under 10,000 tons displacement. The size of the three country's navies (the Royal Navy, United States Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy) was set at the ratio 5-5-3. [3]

In 1921 the Temporary Mixed Commission on Armaments was set up by the League of Nations to explore possibilities for disarmament. It was made up not of government representatives but of famous individuals who rarely agreed. Proposals ranged from abolishing chemical warfare and strategic bombing to the limitation of more conventional weapons, such as tanks. A draft treaty was assembled in 1923 that made aggressive war illegal and bound the member states to defend victims of aggression by force. Since the onus of responsibility would, in practice, be on the great powers of the League, it was vetoed by Great Britain, who feared that this pledge would strain its own commitment to police its British Empire. [4]

Another commission in 1926, set up to explore the possibilities for the reduction of army size, met similar difficulties. However acting outside the League. French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand and US Secretary of State Frank Kellogg drafted a treaty known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which denounced war of aggression. There were 65 signatories to the pact, but it set out no guidelines for action in the event of a war. It was in 1946 used to convict and execute Nazi leaders of war crimes. [5] [6]

A final attempt was made at the Geneva Disarmament Conference from 1932 to 1937, chaired by former British Foreign Secretary Arthur Henderson. Germany demanded the revision of the Versailles Treaty and the granting of military parity with the other powers, while France was determined to keep Germany demilitarised for its own security. Meanwhile, the British and Americans were not willing to offer France security commitments in exchange for conciliation with Germany. The talks broke down in 1933, when Adolf Hitler withdrew Germany from the conference. [7]

Nuclear disarmament

United States and USSR/Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945-2006. These numbers include warheads not actively deployed, including those on reserve status or scheduled for dismantlement. Stockpile totals do not necessarily reflect nuclear capabilities since they ignore size, range, type, and delivery mode. US and USSR nuclear stockpiles.svg
United States and USSR/Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles, 1945–2006. These numbers include warheads not actively deployed, including those on reserve status or scheduled for dismantlement. Stockpile totals do not necessarily reflect nuclear capabilities since they ignore size, range, type, and delivery mode.
Workers cut launch tubes for nuclear missiles as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program. Dismantling of missile launch tubes under Cooperative Threat Reduction program..jpg
Workers cut launch tubes for nuclear missiles as part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated.

In the United Kingdom, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) held an inaugural public meeting at Central Hall, Westminster, on 17 February 1958, attended by five thousand people. After the meeting a few hundred left to demonstrate at Downing Street. [8] [9]

CND's declared policies were the unconditional renunciation of the use, production of or dependence upon nuclear weapons by Britain and the bringing about of a general disarmament convention. The first Aldermaston March was organised by the CND and took place at Easter 1958, when several thousand people marched for four days from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment close to Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons. [10] [11] The Aldermaston marches continued into the late 1960s when tens of thousands of people took part in the four-day marches.

In 1961, US President John F. Kennedy gave a speech before the UN General Assembly where he announced the US "intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race, but to a peace race – to advance together step by step, stage by stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved." He went on to call for a global general and complete disarmament, offering a rough outline for how this could be accomplished:

The program to be presented to this assembly - for general and complete disarmament under effective international control - moves to bridge the gap between those who insist on a gradual approach and those who talk only of the final and total achievement. It would create machinery to keep the peace as it destroys the machinery of war. It would proceed through balanced and safeguarded stages designed to give no state a military advantage over another. It would place the final responsibility for verification and control where it belongs, not with the big powers alone, not with one's adversary or one's self, but in an international organization within the framework of the United Nations. It would assure that indispensable condition of disarmament - true inspection - and apply it in stages proportionate to the stage of disarmament. It would cover delivery systems as well as weapons. It would ultimately halt their production as well as their testing, their transfer as well as their possession. It would achieve under the eyes of an international disarmament organization, a steady reduction in force, both nuclear and conventional, until it has abolished all armies and all weapons except those needed for internal order and a new United Nations Peace Force. And it starts that process now, today, even as the talks begin. In short, general and complete disarmament must no longer be a slogan, used to resist the first steps. It is no longer to be a goal without means of achieving it, without means of verifying its progress, without means of keeping the peace. It is now a realistic plan, and a test - a test of those only willing to talk and a test of those willing to act. [12]

Major nuclear disarmament groups include Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Greenpeace and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. There have been many large anti-nuclear demonstrations and protests. On June 12, 1982, one million people demonstrated in New York City's Central Park against nuclear weapons and for an end to the cold war arms race. It was the largest anti-nuclear protest and the largest political demonstration in American history. [13] [14]

Police disarmament

Black lives matter, black block banner reading "End gun violence, disarm the Police" pictured on December 12, 2020 Columbus Ohio BLMProtest With Banner Reading End Gun Violence Disarm The Police.png
Black lives matter, black block banner reading "End gun violence, disarm the Police" pictured on December 12, 2020 Columbus Ohio

The Police disarmament movement is a political movement that advocates replacing policing with other systems of public safety, as well as disarming and defunding of the Police. The movement can be traced back to the 1900s often championed by anarchists, and left libertarians.

The Police abolition movement has seen an increase of support following the George Floyd Protests as well as reports of police brutality and police corruption. Proponents defend the police disarmament movement with other forms of maintaining public safety. Critics of Police disarmament include some sociologists, criminologists, journalists, and politicians with criticism mainly centering around it being utopian as well as the perceived need for the police to maintain a functioning, lawful community.

Disarmament conferences and treaties

Weapons of Mass Destruction


Definitions of disarmament

In his definition of "disarmament", David Carlton writes in the Oxford University Press Political dictionary, "But confidence in such measures of arms control, especially when unaccompanied by extensive means of verification, has not been strengthened by the revelation that the Soviet Union in its last years successfully concealed consistent and systematic cheating on its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention." He also notes, "Now a freeze or a mutually agreed increase is not strictly speaking disarmament at all. And such measures may not even be intended to be a first step towards any kind of reduction or abolition. For the aim may simply be to promote stability in force structures. Hence a new term to cover such cases has become fashionable since the 1960s, namely, arms control." [16]

Related Research Articles

Kellogg–Briand Pact 1928 international agreement

The Kellogg–Briand Pact or Pact of Paris – officially the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy – is a 1928 international agreement in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve "disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them". The pact was signed by Germany, France, and the United States on 27 August 1928, and by most other states soon after. Sponsored by France and the U.S., the Pact is named after its authors, United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand. The pact was concluded outside the League of Nations and remains in effect.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons International treaty to prevent spread of nuclear weapons

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Between 1965 and 1968, the treaty was negotiated by the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament, a United Nations-sponsored organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Nuclear disarmament Act of eliminating nuclear weapons

Nuclear disarmament is the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons. It can also be the end state of a nuclear-weapons-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. The term denuclearization is also used to describe the process leading to complete nuclear disarmament.

Arms control is a term for international restrictions upon the development, production, stockpiling, proliferation and usage of small arms, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction. Arms control is typically exercised through the use of diplomacy which seeks to impose such limitations upon consenting participants through international treaties and agreements, although it may also comprise efforts by a nation or group of nations to enforce limitations upon a non-consenting country.

Conference on Disarmament Multilateral disarmament forum

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is a multilateral disarmament forum established by the international community to negotiate arms control and disarmament agreements based at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Conference meets annually in three separate sessions in Geneva.

Washington Naval Conference 1921–22 disarmament conference in Washington D.C., US

The Washington Naval Conference was a disarmament conference called by the United States and held in Washington, DC from November 12, 1921 to February 6, 1922. It was conducted outside the auspices of the League of Nations. It was attended by nine nations regarding interests in the Pacific Ocean and East Asia. Germany was not invited to the conference, as it had already been disarmed under the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Soviet Russia was also not invited to the conference. It was the first arms control conference in history, and is still studied by political scientists as a model for a successful disarmament movement.

Geneva Summit (1955)

The Geneva Summit of 1955 was a Cold War-era meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Held on July 18, 1955, it was a meeting of "The Big Four": President Dwight D. Eisenhower of the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Eden of Britain, Premier Nikolai A. Bulganin of the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Edgar Faure of France. They were accompanied by the foreign ministers of the four powers : John Foster Dulles, Harold Macmillan, Vyacheslav Molotov, and Antoine Pinay. Also in attendance was Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.

United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research Research institute of the United Nations

The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) was established in 1980 by the United Nations General Assembly to inform States and the global community on questions of international security, and to assist with disarmament efforts so as to facilitate progress toward greater security and economic and social development for all.

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Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments

The Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, generally known as the Geneva Conference or World Disarmament Conference, was an international conference of states held in Geneva, Switzerland, between February 1932 and November 1934 to accomplish disarmament in accordance with the Covenant of the League of Nations. It was attended by 31 states, most of which were members of the League of Nations, but the USSR and the United States also attended.

Jonathan Granoff

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Litvinov Protocol

The Litvinov Protocol is the common name of an international peace treaty concluded in Moscow on February 9, 1929. Named after the chief Soviet diplomat moving the negotiations forward, Maxim Litvinov, the treaty provided for immediate implementation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact by its signatories, thereby formally renouncing war as a part of national foreign policy.

Anti-nuclear organizations may oppose uranium mining, nuclear power, and/or nuclear weapons. Anti-nuclear groups have undertaken public protests and acts of civil disobedience which have included occupations of nuclear plant sites. Some of the most influential groups in the anti-nuclear movement have had members who were elite scientists, including several Nobel Laureates and many nuclear physicists.

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The anti-nuclear movement in the United Kingdom consists of groups who oppose nuclear technologies such as nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Many different groups and individuals have been involved in anti-nuclear demonstrations and protests over the years.

Treaty battleship Battleship built in the 1920s or 1930s under the terms of one of a number of international treaties governing warship construction

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Peace movement Social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars)

A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war, minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, and is often linked to the goal of achieving world peace. Means to achieve these ends include advocacy of pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, peace camps, moral purchasing, supporting anti-war political candidates, legislation to remove the profit from government contracts to the military–industrial complex, banning guns, creating open government and transparency tools, direct democracy, supporting whistleblowers who expose war crimes or conspiracies to create wars, demonstrations, and national political lobbying groups to create legislation. The political cooperative is an example of an organization that seeks to merge all peace movement organizations and green organizations, which may have some diverse goals, but all of whom have the common goal of peace and humane sustainability. A concern of some peace activists is the challenge of attaining peace when those that oppose it often use violence as their means of communication and empowerment.

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The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is an Office of the United Nations Secretariat established in January 1998 as the Department for Disarmament Affairs, part of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan to reform the UN as presented in his report to the General Assembly in July 1997.

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The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is an organisation that advocates unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom, international nuclear disarmament and tighter international arms regulation through agreements such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It opposes military action that may result in the use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and the building of nuclear power stations in the UK.

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  1. UN General Assembly, Final Document of the First Special Session on Disarmament Archived November 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine , para. 22.
  2. Trevor N. Dupuy, and Gay M. Hammerman, eds. A Documentary History of Arms Control and Disarmament (1973).
  3. Marriott, Leo (2005), Treaty Cruisers: The First International Warship Building Competition, Barnsley: Pen & Sword, ISBN   1-84415-188-3
  4. Andrew Webster, "'Absolutely Irresponsible Amateurs': The Temporary Mixed Commission on Armaments, 1921–1924." Australian Journal of Politics & History 54.3 (2008): 373-388.
  5. Julie M. Bunck, and Michael R. Fowler, "The Kellogg-Briand Pact: A Reappraisal." Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law 27 (2018): 229-276.
  6. Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928, Yale UP, archived from the original on 2012-05-09
  7. "The League And Disarmament: A Story Of Failure".
  8. John Minnion and Philip Bolsover (eds), The CND Story, Allison and Busby, 1983, ISBN   0-85031-487-9.
  9. "Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND)". Spartacus-Educational.com. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  10. A brief history of CND
  11. "Early defections in march to Aldermaston". Guardian Unlimited . 1958-04-05.
  12. "Address by President John F. Kennedy to the UN General Assembly". U.S. Department of State.
  13. Jonathan Schell. The Spirit of June 12 The Nation, July 2, 2007.
  14. 1982 - a million people march in New York City Archived June 16, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  15. The UN office at Geneva – Disarmament in Geneva
  16. disarmament: Definition and Much More from Answers.com

Further reading

See also