Learning Units

Learning Unit 01:

Arms control, non-proliferation, and disarmament have been cornerstones of international security and peace for decades. In turbulent times, limiting armament and restricting its use seems paramount. This learning unit explains why.

After completing this learning unit, you will

  • understand the basic objectives of, and the differences between, the concepts of classical and humanitarian arms control, non-proliferation, counter-proliferation and disarmament.
  • comprehend how constraints on armaments and development are related.
  • assess the utility of arms control in different political environments including current one.
  • be aware of the many tools of arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament and how they are used in existing treaties and conventions.
  • understand critical approaches to arms control, especially with respect to human security, development and gender.
  • know about the thrust of the strategies and policies of the European Union in this area.

Author: Harald Müller

Learning Unit 02:

Chemical weapons (CW) are among the most gruesome means of warfare humans ever invented. This learning unit introduces CW and their effects, reviews the evolution of the norm against chemical weapons until the present day, and assesses the feasibility of a world without chemical weapons in the 21st century.

After completing this learning unit, you will

  • understand the nature of chemical weapons and their effects on humans, animals and the environment.
  • understand the technical foundations of CW.
  • be familiar with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and other relevant international treaties
  • understand the current nature of the CW challenge, including
    • dual-use issues relating to civilian research, development and production activities
    • legitimate and illegitimate uses of irritants (e.g., riot control agents)
    • terrorism,
    • chemical security and safety.
  • have an overview of EU policies in support of the CWC and the norm against CW.
  • have background knowledge on CW use in Syria and the international response to a major violation of the norm against CW.

Author: Jean Pascal Zanders

Learning Unit 03:

The Ebola crisis in West Africa (2014-16) reminded us of the challenge to contain and manage pandemic diseases in a globalised and interconnected world. Although the Ebola outbreak was a naturally occurring epidemic, terrorist organisations or States could create 'man-made' pandemics in the form of biological weapons (BW) in the future.

This learning unit addresses the challenges to prevent acts of bio-warfare and of bio-terrorism in an era of rapid advances and diffusion of sensitive biotechnologies.

After completing this learning unit, you will

  • understand the technical foundations of BW.
  • have an overview of historical BW programmes.
  • comprehend the nature of bioterrorism.
  • be familiar with the political context of biological weapons.
  • have better knowledge of the international legal framework aimed at prohibiting the possession and use of BW.

Author: Filippa Lentzos

Learning Unit 04:

Understanding nuclear proliferation requires insights into technical aspects of nuclear weapons, the size of global nuclear weapons stockpiles, former and current nuclear arms control treaties, and the rationales for nuclear testing.

After completing this learning unit, you will

  • understand the technical basics of nuclear weapons.
  • comprehend the dual use dimension of the nuclear fuel cycle.
  • know the effects of nuclear weapons.
  • have an overview of global stockpiles of nuclear weapons and materials.
  • be familiar with the history of bilateral nuclear arms control
  • understand the rationale of nuclear testing.
  • get an overview of international attempts to ban nuclear testing.
  • be able to assess the EU position on curbing fissile material production and nuclear testing.

Authors: Marco Fey & Giorgio Franceschini

Learning Unit 05:

The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the single most important treaty covering nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. This learning unit introduces the NPT and discusses its political, legal and historical dimensions.

After completing this learning unit, you will

  • understand the origins, history, rationale and functioning of the NPT.
  • know the requirements/basic undertakings of the treaty under its three pillars (disarmament, non-proliferation, peaceful uses).
  • identify the main challenges within the NPT: universality, withdrawal, compliance, enforcement, transparency, WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East.
  • comprehend the relation between the NPT and other international legal instruments on disarmament and non-proliferation.
  • get an overview over the IAEA and EURATOM safeguards and verification systems and the legal framework.
  • understand the dynamics and main trends of the peaceful applications of nuclear energy.
  • be able to distinguish the concepts nuclear security and nuclear safety, as well as the different tools and legal instruments of each one.
  • be capable of assessing the EU’s position on the NPT, the IAEA’s safeguards system, nuclear security and nuclear safety.

Authors: Vicente Garrido Rebolledo & Roberta Mulas

Learning Unit 06:

While the world wrestles with the idea of a world free of nuclear weapons, some regions are already a step ahead. The whole southern hemisphere is a nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ) and also in the northern hemisphere such zones are being created. This learning unit focusses on NWFZ and the idea of broadening such zones both geographically and in relation to other weapons of mass destruction.

After completing this unit, the you will

  • understand the concept of NWFZ and WMDFZ.
  • comprehend the legal basis and the structure of these zones.
  • have an overview of the history of their development.
  • know the rationale of their establishment.
  • understand the role of external actors and the negative security assurances that Nuclear Weapon States are expected to provide.
  • be capable of assessing the EU's position on NWFZ in general and the Middle East WMDFZ in particular.

Authors: Anna Péczeli & Erzsébet Rózsa

Learning Unit 07:

Until the present day a large-scale terrorist attack carried out with weapons of mass destruction has not occurred, but it is often seen as (almost) inevitable and only a matter of time. This learning unit offers a sober discussion of the risks of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism in the 21st century.

After completing this unit, you will

  • know a basic definition of terrorism.
  • understand why there is increasing concern over CBRN terrorism.
  • have knowledge on cases of attempted or realized acts of CBRN terrorism.
  • be familiar with CBRN security concepts and measures.

Authors: Wyn Bowen & Christopher Hobbs

Learning Unit 08:

In recent years space has become ever more important for both commercial and military applications. Some experts assume that the next major war will actually start in space. Given the importance of space as a potential battleground, this learning unit introduces the technical, historical, political and legal dimensions of space security, delivery vehicles, and missile defence.

After completing this unit, you will

  • understand the role and technical aspects of delivery vehicles.
  • be aware of major international regimes associated with delivery vehicles.
  • understand the purpose of missile defence and missile defence deployment plans in Europe.
  • be familiar with key issues relevant to the security of outer space activities, comprehend the multi-year EU diplomatic efforts to advance long-term safety, security, and sustainability of outer space activities.

Authors: Jana Robinson & Michael Romancov

Learning Unit 09:

After the Cold War, a new discourse on arms control and disarmament emerged driven, in part, by the severe humanitarian impact of landmines and explosive remnants of war on people’s lives and livelihoods. Security was no longer conceived exclusively in terms of military threats to the state, but as freedom from violence for individuals and groups. This learning unit elaborates on how the paradigm shift from national to human security furthered ‘humanitarian disarmament’ initiatives and explores the political processes that successfully outlawed anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.

After completing this unit, you will

  • be able to describe the humanitarian impacts of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.
  • recall the diplomatic processes that led to their prohibition, including the role of the EU in these processes.
  • be able to restate the main international humanitarian law (IHL) rules governing the regulation of weapons from a humanitarian perspective.
  • know key elements of the Ottawa and Oslo treaties and ongoing challenges in their implementation.
  • recognize key characteristics of a humanitarian disarmament approach.
  • be able to apply a humanitarian disarmament lens to contemporary disarmament debates, including nuclear disarmament.

Author: Maya Brehm

Learning Unit 10:

Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are responsible for the majority of violent deaths world-wide. Some critics argue that its SALW which are the real weapons of mass destruction. This learning unit continues debating humanitarian arms control with the exclusive focus on the issue of SALW and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

After completing this unit, you will

  • have a better insight into the issue of illicit SALW proliferation.
  • know the main elements of the most important international policy instruments that were developed at UN and EU level to control the proliferation of SALW.
  • have knowledge on the objectives, scope and content of the ATT and on the challenges with the development and implementation of policy instruments to combat the illicit proliferation of SALW.

Author: Nils Duquet

Learning Unit 11:

When it comes to the control of conventional weapons, Europe has an impressive track record of treaties restricting conventional weapons and fostering transparency and confidence. This learning unit explores these regimes which were developed during the Cold War to reduce the likelihood of surprise attacks and debates their value in times marked by new tensions.

After completing this unit, you will

  • understand the origins and rationale of arms control in Europe
  • be able to describe the purpose and functioning of the CFE Treaty, Open Skies Treaty, and Vienna Document
  • know the difference between strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW), understand NATO nuclear sharing and Russian approach to TNW
  • be familiar with the challenges of bringing NSNW under an arms control/confidence-building framework
  • understand the role played by the OSCE, the EU and other organizations in the European arms control system
  • be able to identify and discuss the main challenges to arms control in Europe, including the effects of the Ukrainian crisis

Authors: Lukasz Kulesa & Jacek Durkalec

Learning Unit 12:

For many states, the licit export of armaments is a lucrative endeavor. In order to guarantee that only licit transfers take place, states have export control measures in place. But how do they work and what kind of restrictions apply? Can controls prevent the transfer of weapons and ammunition to criminal networks or terrorists? Can they disrupt the acquisition path of a country developing weapons of mass destruction?

After completing this unit, you will

  • be introduced to the issue of legal international arms trade and the rationale behind export controls.
  • be familiar with different levels of export controls and the various international export regimes and treaties covering different types of weapons or problematic goods.
  • have learned about European export controls in more detail, especially the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports and the EU Common Position on Exports of Conventional Arms.
  • know about the problem of “dual use” goods and how they complicate export controls.
  • understand future challenges and how they can be tackled.

Author: Elli Kytömäki

Learning Unit 13:

'Trust, but verify', was a famous slogan during the Cold War in the context of arms control. However, the question of how to verify that a state is honouring its commitments is (one of) the biggest problem facing arms control regimes. How can we be sure that a party to an arms control treaty is really reducing or eliminating a certain type of weapons? This learning unit aims at providing answers to these tricky questions.

After completing this unit, you will

  • understand the critical role of compliance, verification and enforcement in achieving non-proliferation and arms control objectives.
  • have an overview of how the different treaties approach verification.
  • comprehend why verification alone is not sufficient without enforcement.
  • know the enforcement role of the Security Council.
  • understand the rationale for applying sanctions.
  • have an overview of how various non-compliance cases have been addressed.
  • be capable of assessing ideas for strengthening compliance.
  • grasp the potential of societal verification.

Authors: Mark Fitzpatrick & Paulina Izewicz

Learning Unit 14:

The European Union’s engagement with matters of non-proliferation and disarmament is multi-faceted and not always easy to grasp. This learning unit will navigate through the complex institutional and political history of the European Union, its first approaches to a Common Foreign and Security Policy, and its growing involvement in global non-proliferation and disarmament affairs.

After completing this unit, you will

  • have explored the stand of the EU in arms control and non-proliferation.
  • understand key EU institutions involved in WMD non-proliferation and the division of labour between them.
  • have knowledge of the EU Strategy of WMD non-proliferation and the EU SALW Strategy.
  • have an overview of the background to EU arms control policies, both in terms of internal dynamics and as reactions to world events.
  • be aware of some of the challenges for the EU in consolidating its arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation policies in its overall institutional and policy frameworks.

Author: Lina Grip

Learning Unit 15:

The military always aims at making use of technological progress. This can entail new weapon systems, new concepts or doctrines, or even entirely new domains of operation such as space or cyberspace. Currently, many technologies which were regarded as mere science fiction only a few years ago are about to enter the battlefield. This learning unit looks at recent developments, identifies key emerging technologies and discusses the problems and challenges they pose for security, peace and arms control.

After completing this unit, you will

  • have an overview over several emerging technologies and their military applications.
  • know the state of proliferation with regard to unmanned weapon systems and the trend toward more autonomy in them.
  • be familiar with hypersonic glide vehicles and the military use of nanotechnology.
  • be able to assess the challenges involved with cyber security as well as the growing demand for non-lethal weapons.
  • understand the challenges of the 21st century due to the dual-use problem and the need for qualitative rather than quantitative arms control.
  • Authors: Frank Sauer & Niklas Schörnig