IF ALL—or even most—countries abided by the letter and spirit of the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the world might be rather less grim. Governments that sign up are supposed to halt exports of weapons if they have good reason to think they will be used to flout international humanitarian law. That could cover both internal repression and waging wars by inhumane methods.
Every country in the European Union has ratified the treaty; when it was being crafted, Britain was a keen advocate. But Russia and China have stayed out. The American administration (under Barack Obama) inked the accord, but it has yet to be ratified by the Senate and this looks unlikely to happen. The treaty, which covers everything from tanks to small arms, was opposed by America’s gun lobby. Conservative critics in Washington, DC, now call it a piece of liberal Utopianism which would hobble America without reining in its main rivals.
Continue reading for free
Join to get 5 free articles per month
Subscribe for unlimited access to world-leading reporting and analysis
- Full access to Economist.com and our iOS app
- Subscribers-only daily briefing newsletter & app
- The full weekly edition, in print, digital and audio
View subscription options