Studies of Military R&D and Weapons Development
by Milton Leitenberg, Circa 1985
Senior Research Scholar
Center for International and Security Studies
University of Maryland, College Park
Background of the Study
Every two or three years between the early 1960s and the 1980s, the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General released reports dealing with various aspects of arms control and disarmament. The subjects of these reports were suggested by individual UN Member States.
The Office of the Secretary-General would select a panel of ten or twelve specialists from UN member states on opposite sides of the Cold War and from neutral states, these served as The Experts Group for the study. Representatives of the US and USSR were invariably included among the Expert Group members selected for these studies. However the Secretary-General would also appoint a small staff of two experts who were responsible for drafting the reports.
Early in 1983, Sweden suggested that the Secretary-General issue a report on Military Research and Development.
The proposal was approved by the UN on April 14, 1983. It was the responsibility of the country that had made the suggestion for the study to supply background materials for the Expert Group and for the drafters of the report. The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs therefore commissioned ten studies as support for the UN Resolution 37/99J, April 14, 1983.
Experts Group. This study of ~450 pages was one of the ten, and was produced when I was a Visiting Research Associate at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm. The other nine studies were much smaller, ranging from five to 83 pages in length, and all were all prepared in 1984. The first draft report of 269 pages in length was prepared for the UN Group of Experts on Military R&D by February 13, 1984. The senior drafter was British, his deputy was from West Germany, and both were well known researchers.
A second draft, much reduced to 163 pages, was ready by July 1, 1984. However, the Soviet member of the Experts Group would not agree to certain sections of the study, and due to the deadlock by December 1984 the mandate of the Expert Group had to be extended into 1985.
In essence, the Soviet expert demanded further excisions which the US representative was not willing to accept. The information that the Soviet expert insisted be removed was all in the public domain, but referred to the USSR. It was not the only instance in those years of examples in an arms control context in which Soviet delegates demanded a “USSR–free” text of one or another report or study.
The Soviet and the US expert each held fast to their positions, and therefore agreement under the UN conditions of absolute consensus was never reached, and the study was never publicly released.
Excerpt from “Preface”
The central focus of each of the (4) case studies is somewhat different, but most have — in addition to the involvement of military R&D questions — two important considerations in common:
1) Arms control has had an impact on weapon-development processes in three of the cases (weather modification, Bioweapons (BW), ASAT)
2) Two are categorized as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or the equivalent, (Bioweapons and weather modification), and the third at least in its earlier years involved nuclear weapons either in the ASAT or its presumptive target. MIRVs, of course, concern nuclear-weapon delivery systems.
All of these case studies are very much, if not primarily, concerned with the development process of the weapon systems, and the decisions that were taken regarding them. The case studies except in the study on Bioweapons, are not focused on the research per se: that is dealt with in the opening chapter.
Aside from the first study on MIRV, however, none of these systems represent Ci) the weapons now basic to all military forces — “tanks, planes, ships, missiles — all of which involve successive generational replacement. The lessons that will be learned from these case studies can therefore be expected to be unrepresentative of those that might obtain regarding the more “conventional” categories of weapons. The relations of R&D to the development process will, however, probably not differ significantly.