The Universe of On-Site Inspection

By Ifft, Edward | Arms Control Today, November 2004 | Go to article overview

The Universe of On-Site Inspection


Ifft, Edward, Arms Control Today


As on-site inspection (OSI) has gradually gained acceptance around the world, thousands of inspections have been successfully implemented in a wide variety of circumstances and under many different arms control regimes. Nonetheless, certain practices have emerged.

Formal OSI regimes generally contain important provisions on the status of inspectors, which generally draw upon the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. They also specify a host of details, such as certification of inspectors, entry and exit points, equipment to be allowed and procedures for its use, timelines, procedures for escort by nationals of the host country, communications, provisions for lodging and meals, financial matters, and resolution of disputes.

Formal regimes also generally establish bodies to deal with implementation issues related to OSl or other matters. For example, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) includes the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission, which normally meets in Geneva twice a year. Other agreements led to the formation of similar bodies, which help remove pressure from inspectors in the field to settle all controversial issues on the spot.

National governments also generally institute or designate an agency responsible for conducting inspections and providing escorts for inspections on its own territory. In the United States, the On-Site Inspection Agency was created in 1988 to implement the OSI portions of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and gradually was assigned similar responsibilities for later agreements. It was incorporated into the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in 1998, and today, the On-Site Inspection Directorate of DTRA has more than 600 employees. Other countries have similar organizations, but none approach the size of the DTRA effort.

Inspections can either be routine (conducted according to an agreed schedule or quota) or challenge (conducted to clarify some suspicious or ambiguous situation). Some inspections such as those that monitor conversion or elimination activities, are scheduled well in advance. Others are conducted on short notice, to minimize the possibility of hiding illegal activities.

If an inspection regime is to preserve and enhance confidence, it must be designed in such a way that it protects the legitimate rights of the inspecting and inspected parties. Specifically, the inspecting party needs to have sufficient access to provide confidence that the agreed obligations are being fulfilled. At the same time, the inspected party should be protected from unwarranted intelligence activities or unreasonable interference with its normal activities. Arms control regimes are generally successful when they find this balance.

Although inspections are now commonplace in the countries of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, other parts of the world remain skeptical of the benefits. For example, some countries argue that they have "few secrets" and therefore must guard them vigorously and cannot become more transparent or allow intrusive inspections. Treaty compliance, however, can be demonstrated without leaving oneself "as naked as Adam," to use Nikita Khrushchev's colorful phrase.

OSI Regimes

Much of our current expertise about inspections derives from the arms control treaties painstakingly crafted by the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The 1987 INF Treaty, with its meticulous set of rules and procedures for OSI, became the model for later agreements, both bilateral and multilateral.' That pact required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500 kilometers. It called for five types of intrusive inspections and permitted perimeter and portal continuous monitoring (PPCM) at one site in each country. At Russia's Votkinsk site, U. …

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