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  • Disarming the lords of war

    Foreign Affairs - 12/23/2014

    To understand how poorly the global arms trade is regulated, consider this: For a $70 billion industry that produces seven to eight million firearms annually, it loses one million weapons every year to arms traders like the notorious Viktor Bout (a.k.a. the Merchant of Death) who sold weapons to warlords and terrorists from the 1990s until his capture in 2008. Since then, the international community has sought to build a treaty to control the trade of conventional arms.

    The United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which comes into force on Christmas Eve this year, will deal a major blow to illegal arms dealers that supply the weapons for a large portion of the world’s conflicts. Its principle is straightforward: prohibit the sale of weapons to individuals, groups, or countries that commit genocide, break human rights and international humanitarian laws, or abet terrorists. The treaty will plug holes in the weapons-export process by requiring nations to monitor all aspects of production—from sourcing to manufacturing and export—and will apply to a wide range of weapons, including Kalashnikovs, rifles, mortars, grenades, and shoulder surface-to-air missiles, even tanks and battleships. When fully implemented, the ATT will make a crisis such as the one in Syria less likely; weapon transfers between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad will be considered illegitimate and shameful, even in the absence of a sanction or embargo.

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