What is meant by NBC arms control?

The issue of arms control in relation to NBC weapons (nuclear, biological and chemical weapons) came to public attention above all through talks between the Cold War superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, on limiting their nuclear arsenals.

The first arms control agreements in this field were concluded in the 1960s and have been updated and revised over the years. The latest arms control treaty aimed at reducing nuclear weapons came into effect in 2011 between the United States and Russia. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been negotiated for many years but is still not legally effective. In 1972, biological weapons were proscribed with the signing of the Biological Weapons Convention and, in 1993, agreement was also achieved on a chemical weapons ban. These conventions outlaw further weapons development, curb weapon numbers, prevent trade or require signatory states to destroy their entire stocks within an agreed period. NBC controls also entail compliance mechanisms, such as reciprocal inspection or the commissioning of an independent monitoring organization, which can enhance trust and security for governments and individuals.

Nevertheless, the existing arms controls are no guarantee of a peaceful future with fewer weapons. While research programmes on chemical and biological weapons are still permitted as preventative research, nuclear arsenals are being modernized by the world’s most heavily armed countries, the United States and Russia , and being acquired or expanded by other countries.

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