US, Russia Lead Efforts to Prevent Global Ban on Killer Robots

UN, EU support ban, but major military powers are investing heavily

With some activists warning that the advent of armies of vicious killer robots could be just 3-4 years away, a large number of nations are trying to get out in front of that, with an eye toward a global ban on such robots.

The EU and UN both heavily support such a ban, and Germany is seen as a major proponent. Yet several nations seem keen to resist the idea, as they envision powerful armies of metal men crushing their enemies.

The US and Russia, unsurprisingly, are leading the opposition to the global ban, calling it premature. In practice this really just means they oppose any limitations that would prevent them from building killer robots. Britain, Israel, and Australia are also opposed.

These are the usual suspects whenever people are opposing a global ban on something that  would be used to commit war crimes. While Britain’s Defence Ministry denied any plans to build any “fully autonomous” killer robots of their own, they announced this week that they are in the process of developing killer drone swarms with theoretically full autonomy.

The US is sure to be the leader in the field, at least early on, with America’s huge fleet of attack drones likely to eventually be modified to take out the need for a “button pusher” to authorize strikes, and simply letting the drone decide who lives and who dies.

Since the US provides little oversight in how they decide on drone strikes, the near-term difference may be negligible, just someone else killing indiscriminately with no consequences. Yet human ethics are always at least somewhere at the far end of the spectrum a limiting factor to how many people the fleet can kill. Given the Pentagon’s proclivity for high body counts in recent air wars, simulating that in the AI of the new killer robots will certainly be a low priority, or one eschewed entirely in the name of a more efficient, and therefore merciless, killer.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.