By Sophia Macartney
Now more than ever, it is crucial that all foreign policy tools, including arms control and non-proliferation, be taken advantage of and utilized in the most effective way possible. In the wake of insecurity brought on by Russian nuclear threats and Iran’s heightened enrichment capabilities, it’s time for more consideration to be taken of new, creative solutions for the old threat of nuclear proliferation.
I took an interest in export controls by seeing the value of the intersection of science and policy. Being able to integrate technical expertise into policy is critical to keeping up with the proliferation of emerging technology and beating the proliferators to the punch. This means integrating expertise from across the board and making strategic use of arms control and non-proliferation tools.
The instruments of treaties and international norms will always be important. But developing methods that complement these means and ensure they have a bite that keeps up with the most imminent threats, like Russia, is the next step. Multilateral non-proliferation treaties require agreement and compliance from all participating states, including adversaries like Russia and China, which makes it difficult to mitigate threats when those actors are involved in the activities the regime is meant to control. National export controls restrict the transfer of sensitive materials that could be used for nuclear and emerging technologies weapons proliferation to particular states or regions of concern. These controls can be implemented without the inclusion of adversaries in the decision-making and implementation process, making their effort less likely to be thwarted.
Russia’s lack of compliance with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the lack of a new Iran deal, and growing proliferation risks demonstrate the necessity to pursue all avenues of non-proliferation. That’s why I am developing the export controls portfolio at the Center during my time as a Scoville fellow. I have begun this task by creating fact sheets on the four multilateral export control regimes. Using these as starting points, we may better understand how we can frame export control strategy in the future. Like other foreign policy tools, export controls also have their limitations, such as the difficulty in measuring their success, but they also present an opportunity for the United States to strengthen relationships with allies and encourage good behavior of currently risky countries as they seek access to advanced technologies.