Michael KreponNorm Building and Tear Downs

Lyric of the week:

We’re all skating on the thinnest of ice
Gotta take it as it comes
In a world that isn’t so very nice
Gotta take it as it comes

Any day now the curtain may fall
All the plays end, there’s no curtain call
If you live sad, or it you walk tall
We’re written on wind that’s a long haul

–Steve Winwood, “Take It As It Comes”

Dan Caldwell, my good friend, professor nonpareil at Pepperdine, and the co-founder of The Order of the Baby Lenin, has compiled two charts encapsulating presidential achievements from Eisenhower to Obama that established norms related to weapons of mass destruction. Many other statesmen and women contributed (and in some cases, took the lead) in reaching these achievements. As a consequence, the battlefield use of these weapons — and even their testing — have been stigmatized. The number of these weapons has been greatly reduced, while new possessors have been limited. In some instances, stockpiles have been destroyed.

Norms make us safer, even when outliers disregard them. Deterrence alone hasn’t assured the absence of mushroom clouds. Deterrence is dangerous; without arms control and norms, deterrence is more likely to fail.

Please don’t speed-read Dan’s first chart. Read every line and try to appreciate how much effort went into this body of work.

Norms Established by Arms Control and Disarmament Agreements
(An asterisk indicates that the United States is a party to the agreement)

Types of agreement, date signed and entered into force

1. Nuclear weapon free areas: NORM: Prevent deployments

1.1 Antarctica Treaty* 1959, 1961

1.2 Outer Space Treaty* 1967, 1967

1.3 Treaty of Tlatelolco (Latin America)* 1967, 1968
1.4 Seabed Treaty* 1971, 1982
1.5 Treaty of Rarotonga (South Pacific) 1985, 1986
1.6 Treaty of Bangkok (Southeast Asia) 1995, 1997
1.7 Treaty of Pelindaba (Africa) 1996, 2009
1.8 Central Asia Treaty 2006, 2009

2. Nuclear testing limitations  NORM: Test constraints

2.1 Limited Test Ban Treaty* 1963, 1963

2.2 Threshold Test Ban Treaty* 1974, 1990
2.3 Peaceful Nuclear Explosives Treaty* 1976, 1990
2.4 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty 1996, Not ratified

3. Crisis management and crisis prevention NORM: Communicate

3.1 Hot Line Agreement* 1963, 1963
3.2 Accidents Measures Agreement* 1971, 1971
3.3 Hot Line Modernization Agreement* 1971, 1971
3.4 Basic Principles of Relations (US & USSR)* 1972, 1972
3.5 Incidents at Sea Agreement* 1972, 1972
3.6 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War* 1973, 1973

3.7 Prevention of Dangerous Military Practices* 1989, 1989

4. Nuclear Nonproliferation NORM: Nonproliferation

4.1 IAEA founded* 1956
4.2 NPT * 1968, 1970
4.3 NPT Exporters Committee (Zangger Committee)* 1974
4.4 Nuclear Suppliers Group* 1975
4.5 US-IAEA Safeguards Agreement* 1977, 1980
4.6 Convention on Physical Protection 1980, 1987
4.7 Missile Technology Control Regime* 1987
4.8 Cooperative Threat Reduction Program* 1991
4.9 Agreed Framework with North Korea* 1994, 1994
4.10 Proliferation Security Initiative* 2003
4.11 UN Resolution 1540* 2004
4.12 JCPOA (Iran)* 2015, 2015

5. Disarmament NORM: Disarmament 

5.1 Geneva Protocol 1925, 1928
5.2 BW Convention* 1972, 1975
5.3 INF Treaty* 1987, 1988

5.4 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons* 1982

6. Environmental protection NORM: Environmental protection

6.1 Antarctica Treaty* 1959, 1961
6.2 Limited Test Ban Treaty* 1963, 1963

6.3 Env. Mod. Agreement* 1977, 1978

7. Strategic arms limitations NORM: Control and reduce

7.1 ABM Treaty* 1972, 1972

7.2 Interim Agreement on Offensive Forces* 1972, 1972
7.3 ABM Protocol* 1974, 1974
7.4 SALT II Treaty* 1979, Not ratified
7.5 START I Treaty* 1991, 1994
7.6 START II Treaty* 1993, Not implemented
7.7 SORT/Moscow Treaty* 2002, 2003
7.8 New START* 2010, 2011

8. Chemical and biological weapons NORM: No possession, use

8.1 Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons* 1925, 1928
8.2 Biological Weapons Convention* 1972, 1975
8.3 Australia Group 1985
8.4 Chemical Weapons Convention* 1993, 1997

9. Conventional weapons NORM: Reduce or do not use

9.1 Convention on Certain Conv. Weapons 1982, 1983
9.2 Convencional Forces in Europe Treaty 1990, 2003
9.3 UN Register of Conventional Arms* 1992
9.4 Land Mine Treaty 1997, 1999
9.5 Cluster Mun. Convention  2008, 2010
9.6 Arms Trade Treaty* 2013, 2014

Dan’s second chart identifies which Presidents deserve credit for these achievements. Many are no longer in force. These tear downs — mostly of recent vintage — are in bold. As this chart only focuses on the United States, it does not list agreements that Vladimir Putin has withdrawn from or no longer abides by.

Arms Control Agreements Signed and Withdrawn From During Presidential Administrations

(President, arms control agreement, date signed or withdrawn from)

Dwight Eisenhower

Antarctica Treaty 1959

John F. Kennedy

Hot Line Agreement 1963
Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 1963

Lyndon Baines Johnson

Outer Space Treaty 1967
Latin American Nuclear Free Zone Treaty 1967
Non-Proliferation Treaty 1968

Richard M. Nixon

Seabed Treaty 1971
Agreement on the Prev. of Nuclear War 1971
Hot Line Modernization Agreement 1971
Biological Weapons Treaty 1971
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty 1972
Interim Agreement on Offensive Forces 1972
Threshold Nuclear Ban Treaty 1974

Gerald R. Ford

Helsinki Final Act (CSCE) 1975
Treaty Banning Peaceful Nuclear Expl. 1976

Jimmy Carter

Treaty Banning Env. Modification 1977
IAEA Safeguards Agreement 1977
SALT II Treaty 1979
Conv. on Physical Protection 1980

Ronald Reagan

Hot Line Modernization Agreement 1984
Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers 1985
INF Treaty 1987

George H. W. Bush

CFE Treaty 1990
START I 1991
Open Skies Treaty 1992

Bill Clinton

Agreed Framework (North Korea) 1994
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty 1996

George W. Bush

Withdrew from ABM Treaty 2001
SORT 2002
Proliferation Security Initiative 2003
Withdrew from N.K. Agreed Framework 2003

Barack Obama

New START Treaty 2010
Arms Trade Treaty 2013
Iran JCPOA 2015

Donald Trump

Withdrew from JCPOA 2018
Withdrew from INF Treaty 2019
Withdrew from Arms Trade Treaty 2019
Withdrew from Open Skies Treaty?
Withdrew from New START?

My takeaways from these charts will follow in another post. Yours are hereby solicited.


  1. Ash (History)

    We as people have ignored the writing on the wall! Over the years, the demise of democracy, ending by “Money is free speech”, Corporations are people” written into law by a bunch of people, supposedly the most distinguished among us can have no consequence other than the extinction of the human race as well as the majority of other animals. Therefore, the consideration of any other issue is an exercise in futility.

  2. Jonathan Frerichs (History)

    Thanks for these compilations about the value of norms. Useful tools, all in one place.

    US actions require an addition, however. Section 5 Disarmament should include “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons 2017”. With 79 signatories and 33 ratifications, the TPNW is well on its norm-building way towards entry-into-force. This is thanks to a global majority of states and solid civil society support while nuclear-armed and nuclear-enabling states remain parties to deadlock in the NPT and elsewhere.

    [p.s. Amid all the fine data, item 4.12 JCPOA lists “North Korea”. A wish perhaps.]

  3. jeannick guerin (History)

    all of those treaties rest on a concept of civility
    that mutual restrain is a valid form of interaction
    of course , this in no way imply any submission
    rather it express a willingness to engage as equals

    Requiescat in pace

  4. E. Rhym (History)

    Mr. Krepon, the United States will NOT withdraw from the New START treaty. The Parties may permit New START to expire — just as they permitted the original START treaty to expire (without a replacement ready to supersede it I might add), but an agreement expiring under its own agreed terms does NOT constitute unilateral withdrawal.

    New START, as START was before it, was limited in duration by design. Both Parties did this for a reason, in order to assess the security environment — including technological change — a decade hence, so that a proper course correction could be pursued, either with or without a formal agreement.

    Accordingly, there is nothing untoward about allowing New START to run its course under its own terms, just like the original START treaty. And there is very good reason for the United States to pursue this course, given Russia’s actions — a topic I would be more than happy to engage anyone about in further detail.

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