TACTICAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS REGIME:
IS IT LEGALLY BINDING?
Unilateralism, the latest fad in the arms control process between Russia and the United States raises doubts in the minds of many informed observers. Disarmament experts often mistrust unilateral cuts in nuclear arsenals, partly because such reductions are not considered to be legally binding, and are hence easily reversible, which presumably would not be the case with a treaty-like arrangement. Yet few experts take a close look at the legal consequences of unilateral disarmament in the context of international law, and presumptions as to the legal status of unilateral arms reductions continue to exist even in the absence of in-depth analysis. The purpose of this chapter is not necessarily to disprove these presumptions, but to examine the legal issues involved, filling the interdisciplinary gap, as it were. The chapter considers the current tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) “regime”, formed by the unilateral declarations on reductions of tactical nuclear weapons issued by the Presidents of the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia in 1991/92.
On 27 September 1991, President Bush, eager to address the issue of TNWs without going through lengthy discussions with the Soviet Union, issued a unilateral declaration, in which the United States pledged to eliminate all of its ground-launched short-range nuclear weapons (i.e., nuclear artillery shells and short-range ballistic missile warheads), and withdraw all TNWs from surface ships and attack submarines, as well as from land-based naval aircraft. Days later, Soviet President Gorbachev announced that the USSR would in response eliminate all nuclear artillery shells, nuclear warheads for tactical missiles and nuclear mines, while nuclear warheads for anti-aircraft missiles and the TNWs deployed on