Arms control is generic term which refers to measures taken by virtue of bilateral or multilateral agreements or arrangements in order to limit the number of weapons and to regulate their use.
Arms control is an extremely wide field that covers, for example, a) disarmament, in other words measures to limit the number of arms or eliminate entire weapon system categories; b) measures to restrict deployment of troops or equipment and military operations; c) measures to monitor transfer of weapons, military infrastructure and technology; d) increasing openness and transparency in military activity through exchanges of information and follow-up measures; e) restriction and elimination of certain weapons and modes of operation (international humanitarian law).
The changes in the security environment have modified the content and priorities of the arms control field. During the Cold War period, arms control was characterised by states seeking military power balance and prevention of state-level conflicts. Since the end of the Cold War, new methods have been developed to respond to new types of comprehensive security threats. As a result of the threat of terrorism, the focus has shifted to measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This has made export controls more important and generated a need to find means to intervene in the transfers of weapons of mass destruction. Along with countering various threats, the international community has strived to eliminate the worst humanitarian problems caused by weapons by restricting or eliminating certain weapon categories. The nature of arms control processes has changed as new actors have emerged. The role and importance of non-governmental organisations have become stronger especially in negotiations about the humanitarian dimension.
The tasks of the Ministry of Defence in the field of arms control
Participation in, follow-up of and influencing international negotiations: Defence administration takes part in international arms control negotiations together with other authorities when the matters being discussed have direct bearing on the defence system or the capability of the Defence Forces. For example, international negotiations on weapons of mass destruction and preventing their proliferation are important to defence administration. In addition, many arms control agreements about conventional weapons may have bearing on Finland’s defence system and therefore it is essential to follow negotiations and exert influence.
The overall steering and coordination of the field in defence administration: The Ministry of Defence steers the arms control measures of the administrative branch to implement the obligations of international arms control agreements. The obligations include, for example, drafting a high number of annual exchanges of information, export control issues and the implementation of various obligations in the training and education as well as practices of the Defence Forces. The Ministry of Defence also steers the development of capabilities in issues related to the field of export control.
Support to other authorities: Defence administration supports other authorities with expert assistance, materiel (such as mine-clearing), taking part in official tasks and providing executive assistance, when necessary, to fulfil the tasks related to arms control agreements and cooperation arrangements. In export control matters, for example, the Ministry of Defence is an authorising body.
The Ministry of Defence is responsible for the export control of defence materiel and it acts as the authorising body when defence materiel is exported. Export is regulated by national legislation and, in addition, Finland takes actively part in international export control cooperation. The export of defence materiel has been harmonised in the member states of the European Union and it is regulated with the common code of conduct that has been approved as the Council conclusions. Finland also contributes to the cooperation of a number of multilateral export control regimes, such as the Wassenaar Arrangement.