WASHINGTON - The United States is increasingly violating and undermining major international security treaties in a slide away from rule of law toward the rule of power, according to a new study released yesterday.
The trend began under former President Bill Clinton but has accelerated under President George W. Bush, threatening the security of the United States as well as the larger international community, the study concluded.
Sponsored by two nonprofit groups, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy, the 188-page report analyzes the U.S. response to eight major international agreements, including the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"The United States has violated, compromised or acted to undermine in some crucial way every treaty that we have studied in detail," said Nicole Deller, principal editor and co-author of the report, entitled "Rule of Power or Rule of Law."
This is all the more damaging because the United States was founded on the rule of law and has been viewed as a leading proponent of the international legal system, the report said.
The conclusions echo many complaints from U.S. allies and Bush administration critics.
The study determined that the United States "not only refuses to participate in newly created international legal mechanisms, it fails to live up to obligations undertaken in treaties that it has ratified."
It charged Washington is "drifting away from regarding treaties as an essential element in global security to a more opportunistic stand of abiding by treaties only when it is convenient."
This includes the 1970 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty that bars most states from acquiring nuclear arms and commits treaty signers that do possess them - Russia, China, Britain, France and the United States - to negotiate their elimination.
In the meantime, the nuclear states are mandated under the NPT to not use such arms against non-nuclear states.
The study determined the Bush administration is undermining the NPT because it intends that new reductions in strategic weapons as part of an agreement with Russia can be reversed, if needed, and because its new Nuclear Posture Review "expands options for using nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states."
While the report focuses on the United States, it found that five signatories to the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are in breach of the pact, even though they are abiding by a testing moratorium.
That is because the United States and France are building large laser fusion facilities to conduct laboratory thermonuclear explosions up to 10 pounds of TNT equivalent and Britain is helping to finance the U.S. facility.
Also, Japan and Germany seem to be in violation because they are home to corporations whose subsidiaries provide glass for lasers at the U.S. and French facilities, the report said.
"Nothing in the public record or in the language of the CTBT provides for exceptions allowing laboratory thermonuclear explosions," the study concluded.
Although the United States has signed and ratified the NPT, the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the CTBT and Bush has made clear he has no intention of asking for reconsideration.
Bush recently announced plans for U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM Treaty on national security grounds but the study said this reasoning "stretches credibility beyond the limit."
On the Chemical Weapons Convention banning such arms, limits imposed by the U.S. Congress amount to a "refusal to comply with terms of the treaty," the report said.
Washington was also faulted on its approach to the Biological Weapons Convention banning biological arms, the Kyoto Protocol curbing greenhouse gases, the International Criminal Court and the treaty banning antipersonnel land mines.
Deller, a lawyer, said a recent U.S. policy shift "towards greater reliance on military force, including nuclear weapons, as the main component for securing the people of the United States from a variety of threats sets a dangerous course and a poor example."
The report said that "over the long term, treaty regimes are a far more reliable basis for achieving global policy objectives and compliance with norms than 'do as we say, not as we do' directives from an overwhelmingly powerful state."