In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

International Security 27.4 (2003) 119-149

[Access article in PDF]

Beyond the MTCR
Building a Comprehensive Regime to Contain Ballistic Missile Proliferation

Dinshaw Mistry


The proliferation of ballistic missiles has been a major international security concern for many years. 1 Efforts to address this concern, centered on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), have had a mixed record. 2 The MTCR seeks to curb missile proliferation by denying regional powers the technology to build missiles. In the MTCR's first decade, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, South Africa, South Korea, Syria, and Taiwan were thwarted from advancing their missile ambitions. In light of these positive developments, MTCR members expressed satisfaction with the regime at its tenth anniversary in 1997. Yet in subsequent years, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan launched medium-range missiles, and several other states have expanded their missile programs, demonstrating the MTCR's limitations. To augment the regime, MTCR members drafted the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. 3 In November 2002 ninety-three countries signed the code, which calls on states to make their missile policies more transparent.

In this article I seek to answer two central questions: First, can the MTCR's technology barriers, along with the Code of Conduct's transparency initiatives, curb the spread of ballistic missiles? Second, if the MTCR and the code are inadequate, what additional measures are necessary to contain missile proliferation? [End Page 119] The article offers three main conclusions: First, the MTCR can considerably delay, but ultimately will not prevent, regional powers from building arsenals of intermediate- and long-range missiles. Transparency initiatives are also insufficient to halt missile proliferation because they do not offer strong political and legal barriers against, and incentives to refrain from, missile activity. Second, if regional powers maintain their missile programs (and, more ominously, if they export their missiles to other states), missile proliferation maygreatly increase. As a result, the MTCR's past gains could be reversed. Third, five measures—space service initiatives, regional missile-free zones, global intermediate-range missile bans, flight-test bans, and verification mechanisms—are available to expand the regime and provide firmer institutional barriers against missile proliferation.

The article begins by assessing the success of the MTCR in curbing regional power missile programs. Based on this assessment and on an analysis of trends in missile proliferation, the article explores whether a broader regime is required to halt the spread of missiles. The article then explains why the five above-mentioned measures can better contain missile proliferation. It concludes that two other options to counter missile threats—missile defenses and preemptive military strikes—are most viable in the context of a strong nonproliferation regime. In the end, despite other options against missile threats, strong security regimes are crucial to addressing the problem of ballistic missile proliferation.

The MTCR's Past Performance and Future Prospects

The MTCR is not a treaty that bans missiles. 4 Instead, it is a nontreaty regime that seeks to deny regional powers (1) access to complete missiles, 5 and (2) [End Page 120] technology that would help them to build such missiles. 6 The MTCR has achieved substantial success in fulfilling the first objective and modest success regarding the second. 7

Restricting Missile Exports and Technology Transfers

Two major former missile suppliers—China (which adheres to but has not formally joined the MTCR) and Russia—are not known to have exported ballistic missiles since the early 1990s. The only other major exporter, North Korea (which is not an MTCR member or adherent), supplied an estimated 400 Scud-B and Scud-C missiles to Iran and Syria in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Later it exported a smaller quantity of Scuds or Scud components such as engines to Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and possibly Libya, as well as Nodong missiles or components to Iran and Pakistan. 8

Over the years MTCR members and adherents have sought to control their transfers of missile-relevant technology. 9 In the 1990s, for example, some Western states adopted strong national export controls to curb such transfers. Russia...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 119-149
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.