Fact Sheet

Venezuela Overview

Venezuela Overview

Save to My Resources

Want to dive deeper?

Visit the Education Center

About

This page is part of Venezuela’s Country Profile.

Available evidence indicates that Venezuela has shown little interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, the country’s technical alliances, military trade, and nuclear cooperation with Russia and Iran, among other countries, raise some proliferation concerns.

Venezuela possesses almost no nuclear infrastructure, little nuclear expertise, and is a member of both the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Tlatelolco Treaty), and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Caracas is also a party to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and has adopted domestic legislation prohibiting the acquisition and development of biological and chemical weapons. Venezuela does not have a ballistic missile program, and is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). 1

Nuclear

As the world’s fifth largest oil exporter and a state with abundant hydroelectric resources, it is unlikely that Venezuela will require nuclear power to meet its energy needs. Additionally, until recently, open source evidence had not suggested that Venezuela might be considering pursuing nuclear weapons. The country has only one nuclear facility, very minimal nuclear expertise, and is a member of the major nuclear nonproliferation agreements and regimes. 2 Caracas became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in August 1957, after purchasing a 3 MW research reactor from the U.S. General Electric Company in 1956. The reactor, which went critical in July 1960, was operated by the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones (IVIC) under IAEA safeguards, and was officially shut down in January 1994. 3 Reportedly, the reactor site “is now used for food processing irradiation, medical sterilization and research.” 4

In February 1967, Venezuela signed the Tlatelolco Treaty, ratifying it three years later in March 1970. That treaty, which entered into force in October 2002, prohibits the acquisition, production, use, testing or possession of nuclear weapons in the region. 5 Venezuela joined the NPT in 1975 as a non-nuclear weapon state, and negotiated an IAEA Safeguards Agreement covering its nuclear activities that entered into force in March 1982. 6 In November 1983, Venezuela and Brazil signed an agreement that provided for cooperation in the research, design, development, and use of experimental and operational reactors; research on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; and prospecting “for minerals with nuclear uses.” 7 There is little public information, however, on any activity carried out under this agreement. In May 2002, Venezuela was the 92nd country to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In 1998, Hugo Chávez, a former military officer, was elected president on a populist platform dubbed the “Bolivarian Revolution,” which called for the country to use its oil revenue to support social welfare programs at home, and to counter U.S. influence in the region and around the world. 8 Chávez’s announcements since 2005 about building a nuclear power program and the nuclear cooperation alliances that he has sought may have more to do with his foreign policy goals and anti-U.S. stance than with any actual need or plan to develop either nuclear power or nuclear weapons. For example, during an October 2005 summit meeting, Chávez announced unexpectedly that Venezuela might acquire as many as a dozen nuclear power reactors from Brazil and/or Argentina. 9 The announcement took Brazilian and Argentine nuclear officials by surprise, and was viewed by many nuclear proliferation analysts as another way of challenging the U.S. administration, though Chávez may also have perceived obtaining nuclear reactors as a way to gain international prestige. 10 Both Brazilian and Argentine officials reacted warily to possible nuclear cooperation with Venezuela, and despite the existence of nuclear cooperation agreements with both countries, there is no public information indicating that Venezuela has received any nuclear technology or know-how from either country. 11

However, Venezuela’s ever-strengthening ties with Iran pose some proliferation concerns. Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, and Iran, the second largest, began to build stronger ties after Venezuela hosted the 2000 OPEC meeting in Caracas. 12 The relationship between the two countries intensified as Chávez became an outspoken supporter of Iran’s nuclear program, and a critic of Western countries that have sought UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iran to halt uranium enrichment and to disclose the full extent of its nuclear program and any nuclear weapons-related activities. In February 2006, when the IAEA Board of Governors voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions, only Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria opposed the decision. 13 In return for Venezuela’s support at the IAEA and the UN Security Council, Iran has entered into more than 270 energy, development, commercial, and financial agreements with Venezuela, and allegedly has invested billions of dollars in joint projects. 14 Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, has indicated continued support for the alliance, and visited Iran to demonstrate his commitment to close bilateral relations. 15 The Maduro government proceeded to sign an economic and scientific deal with Iran, but the agreement does not appear to cover nuclear cooperation. 16

The United States government has expressed great concern about Venezuela’s cooperation with Iran, particularly in the nuclear area. In March 2008, Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL) reintroduced a bill (H. Res. 1049) calling for Venezuela to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. 17 The draft bill pointed to President Chávez’s “strong relationship” with Iran as demonstrated by Venezuela’s “200 bilateral agreements with Iran,” Iran’s reported offer to help Venezuela with a nuclear program, and Chávez’s strong support for Iran’s controversial nuclear program. The Venezuelan Embassy in the United States posted a point-by-point denial of the resolution’s charges, and stated: “Venezuela and Iran also have discussed cooperation on nuclear energy, but we are not aware of any significant developments as a result of these discussions.” 18

Congress did not pass a resolution designating Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism; however, in 2008, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Venezuelan companies for transferring items and funds to Iran that could contribute to WMD proliferation and help Iran circumvent UN and U.S. sanctions. 19 The Obama administration expanded sanctions sanctions against Venezuelan companies trading with Iran, and it also passed sanctions targeting Venezuelan officials for human rights abuses. 20 In September 2009, Chávez announced that Venezuela had signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran, under which Iran would help Venezuela construct a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. 21 While Chávez emphasized that Iran and Venezuela have the right to develop nuclear energy, Western countries pointed out that any transfer of nuclear technology from Iran to Venezuela would violate UN Security Council sanctions on Iran, and in particular UN Security Council Resolution 1737. 22 At the same time, Chávez and other government officials admitted that Iran had been helping Venezuela to explore remote areas of the country for uranium deposits. 23 The announcements heightened concerns that Venezuela could be aiding Iran in exchange for nuclear technology transfers, however geologists have questioned whether Venezuela even has exploitable uranium; estimates of the country’s potential deposits are based on unverified projections and might be difficult to extract. 24

Chávez also cultivated ties with Russia that resulted in a nuclear cooperation agreement in November 2008. Following an aborted coup attempt in 2002, which Chávez blamed on the United States, and deteriorating relations with the United States, Chávez turned to Russia for military equipment as well as energy cooperation. 25 Between 2005 and 2007, Chávez spent roughly $4 billion on Russian arms, including 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles (and a factory to build more in Venezuela), 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, and 53 combat helicopters. 26 In 2010 Caracas received a $2.2 billion loan to buy Russian tanks and missile systems, and the following year the country became the top importer of Russian arms for ground forces. 27

In late November 2008 during then President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Caracas, Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno and Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko signed a long-anticipated general agreement on nuclear cooperation.

The agreement established a framework for:

  1. Joint research into controlled nuclear fusion
  2. Design, development, manufacture, and use of research reactors and nuclear power plants
  3. Production of radioisotopes for use in industry, medicine, and agriculture
  4. Help for Venezuela in the development of the infrastructure and legislative framework for peaceful use of nuclear energy
  5. Possible exploration and development of Venezuela’s uranium and thorium deposits. 28

The agreement reportedly specifies that Venezuela may not use any Russian-supplied nuclear equipment and know-how “to produce nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, nor to achieve any military objectives, and will be under the guarantees of the IAEA.” According to a Rosatom press release, the agreement will not involve the transfer of “any know-how or systems for chemical reprocessing of irradiated fuel, isotope enrichment of uranium or production of heavy water, its main components or any objects produced from them, nor uranium enriched to 20 per cent or above.” 29 Following the signing, Rosatom head Kiriyenko stated that the deal should not raise proliferation concerns because Venezuela is an IAEA member and has signed nuclear nonproliferation agreements. 30 While Venezuela is an NPT member and has signed an IAEA Safeguards Agreement, it has not yet joined the Additional Protocol, which would give the Agency broader inspection powers.

In October 2010, Chávez visited Medvedev in Moscow to oversee the signing of several oil and economic deals; the two leaders also signed an agreement spelling out their countries’ nuclear cooperation. According to press reports, under the agreement Rosatom would build a power plant in Venezuela with two 1,200 megawatt pressurized water reactors and a research reactor to produce medical isotopes and nuclear materials for other peaceful purposes. 31 Rosatom’s chief executive Kiriyenko was vague about when Russia might start building the nuclear power plant, and he indicated that the research reactor would be the priority. 32 While Chávez has touted the agreements with Russia and Venezuela’s peaceful nuclear goals, Venezuela’s nuclear projects have not progressed beyond the planning stages. In March 2011, Venezuela’s nuclear power plans were put on hold. In the wake of the nuclear accident in Japan, Chávez announced the cancellation of the Russian plan to build a power plant in Venezuela, stating “[nuclear power] is something extremely risky and dangerous for the whole world.” 33 Nevertheless, recent statements by the Russian government make it unclear whether the project was cancelled or simply put on hold. In May 2012, the Russian government voted to approve the plan to build a nuclear power plant and research reactor in Venezuela. 34 The following year, in a speech highlighting the potential for investment between the two countries, President Vladimir Putin noted that the Russian company Inter RAO UES had been supplying Venezuela with gas turbines “for nuclear power plants under construction there.” 35

Since Chávez’s death in March 2013, both his successor Nicolás Maduro and President Putin of Russia have reaffirmed their commitment to the strategic partnership between the two countries. 36 Venezuela and Russia have continued their cooperation in the oil sector. 37

In 2015, the United States arrested a U.S. nuclear scientist for attempting to sell nuclear secrets to an FBI agent whom the scientist believed to be a Venezuelan intelligence agent. 38 The Venezuelan government claimed it was not aware of the scientist’s efforts.

The collapse of oil prices has devastated the Venezuelan economy, causing widespread commodity shortages, inflation, and capital fight. 39 The economic and social chaos has produced uncertainty about the future of Venezuela’s government. U.S. intelligence officials have warned about the possibility of regime change, potentially led by a military coup. 40 The potential composition of a new government, as well as its implications for Venezuela’s strategic partnerships with Russia and Iran, remains unclear.

Biological

There are no indications that Venezuela has developed or is developing biological weapons. Venezuela ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) on 18 October 1978. According to its United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 reports, it has adopted legislation prohibiting the acquisition, manufacture, and development of chemical and biological weapons. 41 While Venezuela denies any interest in acquiring biological weapons, it does have close ties with two countries, Iran and Cuba, which have extensive biotechnology capabilities, and have in the past been suspected of pursuing biological warfare programs. Venezuela has signed numerous technology development agreements with Iran, and a Memorandum of Understanding “pledging full military support and cooperation.” 42 Venezuela also has a technology trade agreement with Cuba, and in the past has received pharmaceutical products from Cuba as debt payments. In an October 2009 UN General Assembly meeting, a representative for Venezuela, Liseth Ancidey, indicated that global biological weapons elimination is a priority for the country. Ancidey noted that Venezuela supported a program for the “full implementation” of the BTWC, and further, that “it was holding consultations to establish a national body for its implementation and had drafted a code of bio-security to govern the conduct of scientists and researchers working in that field.” 43

Chemical

Venezuela ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on 3 December 1997. In its second Note to the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 Committee, Venezuela declared it had established a National Authority “for the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.” 44 In two other submissions to the Security Council, the Venezuelan government enumerated the various laws it had enacted to prohibit chemical weapons. 45

In an October 2009 UN General Assembly meeting, Venezuela’s representative Ancidey, “reaffirmed” the importance of eliminating chemical weapons. In reference to the CWC, she said that Venezuela “supported full transparency in the implementation of the Convention, as well as its universality.” She also noted the concern of her country that states possessing such weapons might not eliminate them by the agreed upon 2012 deadline. 46

Missile

Venezuela does not have a long-range missile program, and subscribes to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), which calls for limits on the production, testing, and export of ballistic missiles. However, Caracas is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), and has been accused of aiding Iran’s missile program, and plans to import Russian missile defense systems.

The United States has sanctioned Venezuelan companies for providing aid to Iran that could benefit that country’s missile program. In August 2008, and again in February 2013, the U.S. Department of State under the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan Military Industries Companies (CAVIM) for the transfer of items either barred by multilateral export control lists or otherwise “having the potential to make a material contribution to the development of weapons of mass destruction of cruise or ballistic missile systems.” 47 Two months later, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) as providing financial services to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics that allow this entity to develop Tehran’s alleged WMD programs. The Treasury Department also designated Banco Internacional de Desarollo, C.A., a financial institution in Venezuela, asserting it to be a business controlled by or acting on behalf of the EDBI. 48

Iran has reciprocated Venezuela’s economic support with various forms of military assistance. Most notably, Iran has provided Venezuela with six different models of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which were allegedly shipped to the country in 70 mislabeled containers, each carrying 24,000 pounds of cargo from Iran. 49 Additionally, a former ballistic missile engineer from Iran’s Defense Industry Organization headed development of a domestic UAV production program in Venezuela. 50 With Iranian help, Venezuela claims to have produced three of its own UAVs, called the Arpia-001 (aka Harpy-001), which is a localized version of the Iranian Mohajer-2. 51 The state defense company claims the Arpia has a range of 100 km; however, since only still photos of the UAV have been released, these claims are unverifiable. 52 In announcing the program, former president Hugo Chávez maintained that the UAVs would only be used for defensive purposes. U.S. General Douglas Fraser has said the UAVs are likely intended for “internal defense.” 53

The United States is concerned that Venezuela is helping Iran circumvent UN and U.S. sanctions designed to prevent Iran and Syria from developing WMD and ballistic missile programs. In December 2008 media reports stated that an Iranian firm, Shahid Bagheri, under UN sanctions for furthering Iran’s ballistic missile program, had “used the Venezuelan airline Conviasa to ship computers and missile engines” to Syria in exchange for elite Iranian military forces providing law enforcement and intelligence training to Venezuelan troops. 54 Based on Venezuelan export statistics, the same airline was reportedly also used in 2010 to ship 4,556kg of explosives (worth $376,527) to Iran via the Caracas-Damascus-Tehran flight. 55 These incidents gained the attention of the U.S. State Department, which expressed concerns about Conviasa as a possible terrorism risk. 56

In September 2009, Chávez stated that Venezuela would use a $2.2 billion loan from Russia to buy Russian military technology, including a variety of air defense systems. The multi-layered air defense system could “include short-range S-125 Neva/Pechora (NATO: SA-3 Goa), medium-range Buk-M2, and possibly the long-range S-300 (NATO: SA-10 Grumble) surface-to-air missile system.” 57 Chávez claimed that defenses were necessary because of an increased U.S. presence in neighboring Columbia. Components for the S-300VM (Antey 2500) system arrived in Venezuela in April 2013, in spite of initial Russian fears that Chávez’s death the previous month might jeopardize arms deals between the two countries. 58

Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest on nuclear and biological threats.

Sign Up

More on




Glossary

WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
WMD: Typically refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, though there is some debate as to whether chemical weapons qualify as weapons of “mass destruction.”
Treaty of Tlatelolco
The Treaty of Tlatelolco: This treaty, opened for signature in February 1967, created a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Treaty of Tlatelolco was the first international agreement that aimed to exclude nuclear weapons from an inhabited region of the globe. The member states accept the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all their nuclear activities. The treaty also establishes a regional organization, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL), to supervise treaty implementation and ensure compliance with its provisions. For additional information, see the LANWFZ.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The MTCR: An informal arrangement established in April 1987 by an association of supplier states concerned about the proliferation of missile equipment and technology relevant to missiles that are capable of carrying a payload over 500 kilograms over a 300-kilometer range. Though originally intended to restrict the proliferation of nuclear-capable missiles, the regime has been expanded to restrict the spread of unmanned aerial vehicles. For additional information, see the MTCR.
Nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon: A device that releases nuclear energy in an explosive manner as the result of nuclear chain reactions involving fission, or fission and fusion, of atomic nuclei. Such weapons are also sometimes referred to as atomic bombs (a fission-based weapon); or boosted fission weapons (a fission-based weapon deriving a slightly higher yield from a small fusion reaction); or hydrogen bombs/thermonuclear weapons (a weapon deriving a significant portion of its energy from fusion reactions).
Nonproliferation
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Safeguards
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.
Irradiate
Irradiate: To expose to some form of radiation.
Latin American Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone
The Latin American Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, also called the Treaty of Tlatelolco, opened for signature in February 1967, created a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Treaty of Tlatelolco was the first international agreement that aimed to exclude nuclear weapons from an inhabited region of the globe. The member states accept the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all their nuclear activities. The treaty also establishes a regional organization, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (OPANAL), to supervise treaty implementation and ensure compliance with its provisions.  For additional information, see the Treaty of Tlatelolco
Ratification
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Entry into force
The moment at which all provisions of a treaty are legally binding on its parties. Every treaty specifies preconditions for its entry into force. For example, the NPT specified that it would enter into force after the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union (the Depository governments) and 40 other countries ratified the treaty, an event that occurred on March 5, 1970. See entries for Signature, Ratification.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS)
Non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS): Under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), NNWS are states that had not detonated a nuclear device prior to 1 January 1967, and who agree in joining the NPT to refrain from pursuing nuclear weapons (that is, all state parties to the NPT other than the United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China).
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council: Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Council consists of fifteen members, five of which—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are permanent members. The other ten members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The five permanent members possess veto powers. For additional information, see the UNSC.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Bilateral
Bilateral: Negotiations, arrangements, agreements, or treaties that affect or are between two parties—and generally two countries.
Proliferation (of weapons of mass destruction)
The spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons, and their delivery systems. Horizontal proliferation refers to the spread of WMD to states that have not previously possessed them. Vertical proliferation refers to an increase in the quantity or capabilities of existing WMD arsenals within a state.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Fusion
Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction in which two atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing energy. For a fusion reaction to take place, the nuclei, which are positively charged, must have enough kinetic energy to overcome their electrostatic force of repulsion (also called the Coulomb Barrier). Thermonuclear fusion of deuterium and tritium will produce a helium nucleus and an energetic neutron. This is one basis of the Hydrogen Bomb, which employs a brief, uncontrolled thermonuclear fusion reaction. A great effort is now underway to harness thermonuclear fusion as a source of power.
Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Radioisotope
Radioisotope: An unstable isotope of an element that decays or disintegrates spontaneously, emitting energy (radiation). Approximately 5,000 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified. Some radioisotopes, such as Molybdenum-99, are used for medical applications, such as diagnostics. These isotopes are created by the irradiation of targets in research reactors.
Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. The principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process. See entry for Information Circular 540.
Radioisotope
Radioisotope: An unstable isotope of an element that decays or disintegrates spontaneously, emitting energy (radiation). Approximately 5,000 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified. Some radioisotopes, such as Molybdenum-99, are used for medical applications, such as diagnostics. These isotopes are created by the irradiation of targets in research reactors.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
UNSC Resolution 1540
Resolution 1540 was passed by the UN Security Council in April 2004, calling on all states to refrain from supporting, by any means, non-state actors who attempt to acquire, use, or transfer chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or their delivery systems. The resolution also called for a Committee to report on the progress of the resolution, asking states to submit reports on steps taken towards conforming to the resolution. In April 2011, the Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the 1540 Committee for an additional 10 years.
United Nations General Assembly
The UN General Assembly is the largest body of the United Nations. It includes all member states, but its resolutions are not legally binding. It is responsible for much of the work of the United Nations, including controlling finances, passing resolutions, and electing non-permanent members of the Security Council. It has two subsidiary bodies dealing particularly with security and disarmament: the UN General Assembly Committee on Disarmament and International Security (First Committee); and the UN Disarmament Commission. For additional information, see the UNGA.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (ICOC)
ICOC: A legally non-binding arrangement that was launched with the objective of preventing and curbing the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. States adhering to the ICOC agree not to assist ballistic missile programs in countries suspected of developing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, as well as to exhibit "restraint" in the development and testing of their own ballistic missiles. It eventually became the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missiles (HCOC). For additional information, see the HCOC.
Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)
The MTCR: An informal arrangement established in April 1987 by an association of supplier states concerned about the proliferation of missile equipment and technology relevant to missiles that are capable of carrying a payload over 500 kilograms over a 300-kilometer range. Though originally intended to restrict the proliferation of nuclear-capable missiles, the regime has been expanded to restrict the spread of unmanned aerial vehicles. For additional information, see the MTCR.
WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
WMD: Typically refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, though there is some debate as to whether chemical weapons qualify as weapons of “mass destruction.”
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
UAV: Remotely piloted or self-piloted aircraft that can take on various intelligence or combat roles such as reconnaissance or targeted missiles strikes. The rapid proliferation of UAVs has raised concerns that they might serve as a delivery vehicle for a terrorist strike involving WMD.

Sources

  1. For a history of Venezuela’s nuclear ambitions, see Sarah J. Diehl, “Venezuela’s Search for Nuclear Power — or Nuclear Prestige,” NTI Issue Brief, 7 May 2009, www.nti.org.
  2. Nina Gerami and Sharon Squassoni, “Venezuela: A Nuclear Profile,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Proliferation Analysis, 18 December 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org.
  3. “Reactor Details —RV-1, Venezuelan Reactor,” International Atomic Energy Agency, last updated 30 June 1995, www.iaea.org; Nina Gerami, Sharon Squassoni, “Venezuela: A Nuclear Profile,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Proliferation Analysis, 18 December 2008, www.carnegieendowment.org. On safeguards agreements, see “Table II: Agreements Providing for Safeguards, Other than Those in Connection with the NPT or the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Approved by the Board of Governors as of 31 December 2001,” IAEA Annual Report 2001, www.iaea.org.
  4. Patrick Markey, “Venezuela’s Nuclear Energy Plan Makes U.S. Wary,” RedOrbit News, 21 October 2005, www.redorbit.com.
  5. James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes, Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
  6. James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, IAEA Membership, Inventory of International Nonproliferation Organizations and Regimes, Nuclear Threat Initiative, www.nti.org.
  7. “Brazil and Venezuela Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes,” 30 November 1983, UN Treaty Collection, http://untreaty.un.org. (Registered January 1992).
  8. “An Axis in Need of Oiling,” The Economist, 23 October 2008, Economist.com; Simon Romero, Michael Slackman and Clifford J. Levy, “3 Oil-rich Countries Face a Reckoning,” The New York Times, 21 October 2008.
  9. “Brazil Daily Assesses Nuclear Agreement with Argentina, Venezuela,” O Estado de Sao Paulo, 18 October 2005, OSC Document LAP20051018032001; Larry Rohter and Juan Forero, “Venezuela’s Leader Covets a Nuclear Energy Program,” The New York Times, 27 November 2005.
  10. Larry Rohter and Juan Forero, “Venezuela’s Leader Covets a Nuclear Energy Program,” The New York Times, 27 November 2005.
  11. Harold A. Trinkunas, “Assessing Potential Nuclear Proliferation Networks in Latin America: 2006-2016,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, November 2006. In February 2007, Argentina and Venezuela reportedly signed a letter of intent on peaceful nuclear cooperation, which included developing and building a reactor to extract crude oil in Orinoco, exchanging information on the medical uses of nuclear energy, and training Venezuelan students in nuclear physics and engineering.
  12. Shireen T. Hunter, Iran’s Foreign Policy in the Post-Soviet Era: Resisting the New International Order (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2010), p. 233.
  13. Elaine Sciolino, “World Nuclear Panel to Refer Iran to UN Security Council,” The New York Times, 4 February 2006.
  14. Simon Romero, “Venezuela Strengthens Its Relationships in the Middle East,” The New York Times, 21 August 2006; “Venezuela, Iran Sign 20 New Bilateral Cooperation Agreements,” Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, 7 March 2007; “Friends of Opportunity,” The Economist, 27 November 2008; CNN Wire Staff, “Ahmadinejad Visits Venezuela on First Stop of Latin America Tour,” CNN, 9 January 2012, www.cnn.com.
  15. “Venezuelan president to visit Iran soon,” Fars News Agency, via BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 19 June 2013.
  16. Aditya Tejas, “Venezuela, Iran Sign Economic Cooperation Deals; Venezuela Signs $500M Credit Line with Iran,” IBTimes, 27 June 2015, www.ibtimes.com.
  17. “H. Res. 1049: Calling for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Be Designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” Introduced 13 March 2008, www.govtrack.us.
  18. “Resolution & Reality: H. Res. 1049,” Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the United States of America,” www.embavenez-us.org, accessed 4 December 2008.
  19. See, Department of State, “Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation: Imposition of Measures Against Foreign Persons, Including a Ban on U.S. Government Procurement,” Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 206, pp. 63226-63227, http://edocket.access.gpo.gov; and “Export Development Bank of Iran Designated as a Proliferator,” Press Room of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, 22 October 2008, www.treas.gov.
  20. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, “U.S. Relations with Venezuela,” Fact Sheet, U.S. Department of State, 20 July 2015, www.state.gov.
  21. “Venezuela Announced Nuclear Energy Cooperation Program with Iran,” Merco Press, 11 September 2009; Simon Romero, “Venezuela Says Iran Is Helping It Look for Uranium,” The New York Times, 26 September 2009.
  22. “France Cautions Venezuela on ‘Nuclear Links’ with Iran,” MercoPress, 12 September 2009; Simon Romero, “Venezuela Says Iran Is Helping It Look for Uranium,” The New York Times, 26 September 2009.
  23. Simon Romero, “Venezuela Says Iran Is Helping It Look for Uranium,” The New York Times, 26 September 2009; Eduardo Garcia, “Chávez Says Iran Helping Venezuela Find Uranium,” Reuters, 17 October 2009.
  24. Tim Padgett, “Chávez to Iran: How About Some Uranium?” TIME, 8 October 2009.
  25. Vladimir Voronin, “Venezuela’s Weapons Acquisition from Russia Analyzed,” Novoye Vremya, 2 July 2007.
  26. “Venezuelan Politics May Blow Cold on Russian Contracts,” RIA Novosti, 6 March 2013; “Venezuela ranked top importer of Russian arms,” RIA Novosti, 27 December 2011.
  27. “Russian State Corporation Gives Details of Nuclear Deal with Venezuela,” Interfax, November 27, 2008. See also, Caracas Ministry of Communications and Information, “Venezuela, Russia Ink Seven Cooperation Agreements,” 27 November 2008.
  28. “Russian State Corporation Gives Details of Nuclear Deal with Venezuela,” Interfax, 27 November 2008
  29. Artur Blinov, “Russia’s Nuclear Cooperation with Iran, Venezuela, Examined,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 28 November 2008.
  30. Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia Plans Nuclear Plant in Venezuela,” The New York Times, 15 October 2010; Olga Razumovskava, “Chavez Clinches Nuclear Power Deal,” Moscow Times, 18 October 2010.
  31. Andrew E. Kramer, “Russia Plans Nuclear Plant in Venezuela,” The New York Times, 15 October 2010. Many analysts doubt that Venezuela will manage to find the funds and expertise to support a nuclear power program. See, Ian James, “Venezuela’s Chavez Aims to Tap Nuclear Energy,” Associated Press, 16 September 2009; Sarah J. Diehl, “Venezuela’s Search for Nuclear Power — or Nuclear Prestige,” NTI Issue Brief, 7 May 2009.
  32. Federico Quilodran and Michael Warren, “Chile keeps to nuclear script despite Japan crisis,” The Washington Post, 16 March 2011, www.washingtonpost.com; “Hugo Chavez calls off Venezuela’s nuclear energy plans,” BBC News, 12 March 2011, www.bbc.co.uk.
  33. United Nations Security Council, “Note verbale dated 5 December 2005 from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004),” December 7, 2005, daccessdds.un.org.
  34. “Russian industry minister not worried by future of Russian-Venezuelan contracts,” Russia & CIS General Newswire, 6 March 2013.
  35. “Venezuela, Russia Have Huge Investment Potential – Putin,” RIA Novosti, 2 July 2013.
  36. “Russia, Venezuela to Continue Strategic Partnership – Maduro,” RIA Novosti, 8 March 2013.
  37. Alberto Prieto, “Putin comes to the rescue of Maduro and agree joint operation of two gas fields,” OKDiario, 18 June 2016, www.okdiaro.com.
  38. Terrence McCoy, “U.S. nuclear scientist who offered to help Venezuela build nuclear bombs gets 60 months,” Washington Post, 29 January 2015, www.washingtonpost.com.
  39. Robert Kahn, “Venezuela’s Descent into Crisis,” CFR, 4 May 2016, www.cfr.org.
  40. “U.S. concern grows over possible Venezuela meltdown, officials say,” Reuters, 14 May 2016, hosted at www.cnbc.com.
  41. United Nations Security Council, “Note verbale dated 5 December 2005 from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004),” 7 December 2005, daccessdds.un.org.
  42. United Nations Security Council, “Note verbale dated 5 December 2005 from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004),” 7 December 2005, daccessdds.un.org.
  43. UN General Assembly, “Chemical Weapons Ban Took a Century to Enact, but ‘Living Example’ of Success in Field, First Committee Told, Taking up Weapons of Mass Destruction Debate,” 16 October 2009, www.interpol.int.
  44. United Nations Security Council, “Note verbale dated 7 November 2005 from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Chairman of the Committee,” 9 November 2005, http://daccessdds.un.org.
  45. United Nations Security Council, “Note verbale dated 5 December 2005 from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004),” 7 December 2005, daccessdds.un.org; United Nations Security Council, “Note verbale dated 16 November 2004 from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Chairman of the Committee,” 14 December 2004, http://daccessdds.un.org.
  46. UN General Assembly, “Chemical Weapons Ban Took a Century to Enact, but ‘Living Example’ of Success in Field, First Committee Told, Taking up Weapons of Mass Destruction Debate,” 16 October 2009, www.interpol.int.
  47. Department of State, “Bureau of Verification, Compliance and Implementation: Imposition of Measures Against Foreign Persons, Including a Ban on U.S. Government Procurement,” Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 206, pp. 63226-63227, http://edocket.access.gpo.gov; Simon Limage, “Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation Imposition of Nonproliferation Measures Against Foreign Persons, Including a Ban on U.S. Government Procurement,” Federal Register, Vol. 78, No. 28, pp. 9768 -9769.
  48. “Export Development Bank of Iran Designated as a Proliferator,” Press Room of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, 22 October 2008, www.treas.gov.
  49. Antonio Maria Delgado, “Militar iraní a cargo de programa venezolano de aviones no tripulados,” El Nuevo Herald, 18 June 2012.
  50. Antonio Maria Delgado, “Militar iraní a cargo de programa venezolano de aviones no tripulados,” El Nuevo Herald, 18 June 2012.
  51. Brian Ellsworth, “Venezuela says building drones with Iran’s help,” Reuters, 14 June 2012.
  52. Diego Moya Ocampos, “Venezuela-Iran Relations in Spotlight as Drone Is Unveiled,” IHS Global Insight, 14 June 2012.
  53. Brian Ellsworth, “Venezuela says building drones with Iran’s help,” Reuters, 14 June 2012.
  54. “Venezuela Aids Iranian Missile Sales to Syria, Intelligence Agencies Say," Global Security Newswire, 22 December 2008; “Iran Using Venezuela to Duck UN Sanctions: Report,” AFP, 22 December 2008.
  55. Jeffrey Lewis, “Iran-Venezuela Explosives Cooperation,” Arms Control Wonk, 21 June 2012, www.armscontrolwonk.com.
  56. “Chapter 2. Country Reports: Western Hemisphere Overview,” U.S. State Department Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, 30 April 2009, http://state.gov.
  57. Richard Weitz, “Global Insights: Chavez Trades Oil for Arms in Moscow,” World Politics Review, 15 September 2009; “Venezuela to Build Strong Air Defenses with Russian Aid,” RIA Novosti, 14 September 2009.
  58. “La Defensa Aérea de Venezuela recibe primeros sistemas misilísticos rusos S-300VM Antey-2500,” Infodefensa, 5 April 2013, infodefensa.com; Vladislav Fedotkin, “Venezuelan Politics May Blow Cold on Russian Contracts,” RIA Novosti, 6 March 2013.

Close

My Resources