A Middle East Perspective: The Current Situation of the Hague Code of Conduct and Steps for Improvement

During the Annual Conference of the 138 member states to the Hague Code of Conduct Against the Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles (HCoC) which took place in Vienna on June 6 and 7, 2017 the  Foundation pour la Recherche Stratégique in Paris conducted an event on “Ballistic missile non-proliferation: moving forward on strategic and practical issues”. With some 80 diplomats present,  APOME's Coordinator Bernd W. Kubbig addressed the deficits and strengths of the HCoC.

Kubbig emphasized: The weakness of HCoC is its strength: its appealing low-key requirement for all old and new members. This said, the HCoC has its own grave problems. The following deficits are obvious:

1. Lacking credibility of its (crucial) members because the two low-key self-binding standards/obligations, designed as confidence-building measures, are not being implemented properly – these two self-binding standards are the annual reporting of ballistic missile (capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction) activities and of space-launch vehicle activities as well as pre-launch notifications).

2. The HCoC's negative baggage of the past could not be removed, i.e., the regime as the outcome of the restrictive bias of the export control regime MTCR:

3.The HCoC does not contain real and attractive incentives to join.

4. The HCoC membership has stagnated for many years – only one important new member – India – has joined the regime.

Kubbig provided concrete proposals at the Track I and Track II levels on how to tackle each of these deficits as a way to strengthen the HCoC. They will be part of study to be published soon.

1) The most important measure – truly a multilateral one – inside the HCoC would be to establish an informal 'Group of the Willing' centered around the German government and its remarkable list of pre-launch notifications based on open-sources. It could meet regularly between the annual HCoC meetings and discusses the pertinent issues of substance. If core members of this regime continue to fail to provide the basic information, which actually could unravel the entire regime, they can hardly convince other states to join.

2) As far as the negative baggage of the past is concerned, it would have to be determined in appropriate organizational settings which of the criticisms is genuine and which are only a pretext hiding other motives.

3) This criticism overlaps with the points made in 2), for instance concerning technical assistance. Nevertheless, the value of transparency about activities at a low level (lower than required by UNROCA) should be a positive starting point. The pre-launch notification requirement goes beyond the aspect of transparency since it is a mechanism of communication that includes adversaries. Both annual reporting activities can be made more comprehensive and detailed. (See below, ad 4)

4) India could become a real asset for further extension of the HCoC membership. Pakistan, the other traditional harsh critic of the Hague Code, may be persuaded by the example of its archrival – provided that it is possible to offer Islamabad a similarly attractive and comprehensive security package. If Pakistan joined, Egypt and Israel would have a harder time putting their security/diplomatic concerns forward. Since the agreements between India and Pakistan are reportedly much more intrusive than the HCoC’s self-binding stipulations, its former arch critics may lead the way in strengthening this international instrument. In addition, credible HCoC members should be encouraged and empowered to become active in the Middle East. Jordan, Iraq, and Kazakhstan are the countries in question, which would provide a regional basis for serious outreach activities, possibly in a semi-detached way from the EU and others ('semi-regionalization').


New Initiatives at Track II Level – Making BM-related CSBMs a Visible Issue

In addition to measures at the governmental level (Track I), I suggest putting the emphasis on the Track II level (initiatives by academics/experts). In organizational terms, this amounts to taking FRS’ endeavors within the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of WMD and the EU Council's Decision 2912/423/CFSP as the central starting point and center for a broader to-be-coordinated effort. In addition, in substantive terms FRS’ activities have to and can be optimized in a number of ways. I perceive the bottom-line as: The desirable increase in membership (especially from the conflict region) and an expansion and deepening of its provisions do not fall from heaven, and they cannot be achieved overnight. In view of the numerous objections expressed at the government level, the lower Track II level seems much more appropriate. If at all, increased membership and expansion and deepening of provisions can only be achieved by means of a more systematic and comprehensive strategy consisting of measures to be achieved and applied in the short-, medium- and long-term. The following reflections can only be a rough outline. To provide detailed contents would require an additional research effort and go beyond the scope of this paper. In short, the objective is to create a lively missile community by making the issue visible, using existing organizational opportunities and establishing their own Cycle of Workshops, perhaps combined with a focused, but regularly published Newsletter; getting Elder States(wo)men involved as authorities to increase the legitimacy of the endeavor and increase the political impact would be important, too.

Data-based Information on Missiles and Institutional/Academic Partners in the Middle East

In order to find a common basis with the targeted communication partners on the subject in the Middle East, it would be important to have a reliable data base as a point of reference (not in the sense of a collection of information everybody could agree on). A starting point could be the country-related data published as an Appendix in Kubbig/Fikenscher [eds] 2012.  This to-be-updated compilation does not only include ballistic missiles, but also other delivery systems as well such as cruise missiles, rockets (70 km and more), aircraft, air and missile defenses. This broad range of information will be important, once at a later stage BMs will have to be assessed in the (presumably asymmetrical) context of all DVs. In addition, information on ppotential partners in the region would be most valuable. Again, the ATLAS of the Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East, which needs (continuous) updating, could be a good starting point.  Important information regards the character of the institution (connection to government, academic independence/leeway), but also its special expertise and connectedness with other institutions, its reputation, publishing activities, and funding situation. More specifically, other EU security initiatives in the Middle East/Gulf could be of special relevance: the CBRN Centers of Excellence initiative as the institutional focus for capacity building on CBRN topics; building CBRN risk mitigation capacities that provide a platform for voluntary regional cooperation on all CBRN-related hazard issues; setting up an export control system as a tool for fighting against trafficking in dual-use technologies and CBRN materials.

Using Existing Organizational Opportunities

Unlike all kinds of WMD, missiles/CSBMs do not have an academic constituency/community. In a regular and systematic form they have no home, and consequently are not on the corresponding agenda anywhere. But several regularly occurring international conferences with a specific approach to the Middle East/Gulf do exist. The question is how to identify such organizational settings and how to make missiles/CSBMs a secure, regular, and sound issue. It is also advisable to establish connections with expert communities which deal with the warheads that certain types of missiles are expected to deliver.