Thursday, 21/11/2019 | 12:17 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Arms Control and International Security: Nuclear Weapons and International Security in the 21st Century

As prepared


Thank you so much, Sky, for that kind introduction and thank you for your service and to all here who wear or have worn the uniform.

It is also great to be back in in Colorado, one of the most scenic states in the Union. I must admit that I am partial to my native Massachusetts, but it was a native daughter of my own state who emerged as a key figure in the history of this city, and indeed, the country. Gazing up at the majesty of Pikes Peak from nearby Colorado College, Katherine Lee Bates penned “America the Beautiful,” to express her love for America. I can only hope my remarks today will stir the same patriotic feelings!

As Sky mentioned, I am the Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC), and my work at the State Department is focused on enhancing strategic stability, which contributes to U.S. security and peace around the world.

Most days, a glance at the news or Twitter feed will reveal an issue that our Bureau works. For starters, AVC played a key role in one of the most successful weapons of mass destruction removal operations in history. Last June, the United States, with help from dozens of international partners, removed and eliminated Syria’s most lethal chemical weapons. Earlier this month, I traveled to Romania and Turkey where I delivered updates on the U.S.-NATO missile defense agreements that I had the honor of negotiating earlier in the Obama Administration. These missile defense systems will help protect our European allies against limited ballistic missile strikes from the Middle East. And this morning, I spoke at the 31st Annual Space Symposium on the role of diplomacy in securing the safety, security, and sustainability of the outer space environment.

Suffice it to say, the glue for the diverse issues the AVC Bureau covers is the role of diplomacy in advancing U.S. national interests.

As the title of this talk is “Nuclear Weapons in International Security,” I’ll first address how arms control advances U.S. and international security; second, I’ll discuss the indispensable role of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; last, I’ll discuss our unshakable commitment to the security of our allies and partners in the Euro-Atlantic and East Asia-Pacific regions.

Arms Control as National Security

The United States pursues arms control in order to advance our own national security by reducing international threats, decreasing mistrust, and increasing cooperation. For more than 40 years, arms control has contributed substantially to the national security of the United States. We have a responsibility to protect, preserve, and build on those arms control regimes so we can extend their benefits and security to future generations.

We will continue to pursue arms control and nonproliferation tools – along with effective verification mechanisms – because they are a key element of our comprehensive strategy to effectively limit and reduce nuclear threats and prevent such weapons from proliferating to other nation states or falling into the hands of extremists bent on causing colossal destruction. Progress, though, requires willing partners and a conducive strategic environment. Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine have complicated this enormously.

Still, there are some bright spots. One week ago, on April 8, we marked the five-year anniversary of the New START Treaty’s signature by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev. This bilateral arms control Treaty with Russia gives U.S. inspectors on the ground access to Russian military facilities that they would not be able to visit without the treaty’s verification architecture in place.

What is noteworthy is that both sides continue to faithfully implement the Treaty’s provisions even as tensions stemming from Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and its other international obligations persist. In difficult times, transparency in the movement and location of deployed strategic nuclear weapon systems provided by the continual notifications under the treaty becomes all the more important.

Release of the latest biannual data exchange with Russia last month shows that both sides are well ahead of schedule to meet the Treaty’s central limits by the February 2018 deadline. These limits will cap U.S. and Russian deployed strategic warheads at 1,550 apiece—their lowest levels since the 1950s.

While implementation of New START continues in a business-like fashion, the picture is not as rosy with respect to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. Last July, the United States announced its determination that Russia is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty for developing and flight-testing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. We know Russia is in violation, and the Russians know it too.

Our goal is not to demonize Russia. Our goal is to preserve a Treaty we believe brings a great deal of strategic stability to a large part of the world, as it has proven since it was signed in December 1987. We will continue to press Russia to engage us constructively and address our concerns. We are not going to drop the issue until our concerns have been addressed.

We have made clear to Russia, and our Allies, to know, however, that our patience is not unlimited. We will take steps to protect ourselves and our allies if Russia persists in its violation and our concerns are not addressed.

We are also concerned that Russian officials have recently made cavalier statements threatening the use of nuclear weapons against NATO Allies. This rhetoric has no place in the dialogue of responsible nations. It undermines strategic stability and overlooks the defensive nature of NATO’s security posture.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Let me turn now to discuss the foundation of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries: the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The NPT turned forty-five years old this year, and nearly all countries have joined, making it one of the most successful arms control treaties. Before negotiations on the NPT began in the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy predicted that as many as 25 countries could acquire nuclear weapons before the end of the decade. It is a credit to the strength and effectiveness of the Treaty that Kennedy’s forecast never came to pass.

The basic bargain is sound: countries with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy.

This is why the United States will be working hard to help facilitate a successful NPT Review Conference in New York this month. Through close work and collaboration, the 2010 Review Conference was a success. By focusing on common goals and consensus, the countries that are party to the NPT are fully capable of repeating that success.

Recent developments serve as further evidence of the continued salience of the NPT in preventing new countries from acquiring nuclear weapons. Just two weeks ago, the P5+1 and Iran came to agreement on a framework known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. While President Obama cautioned that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran could provide a diplomatic resolution to the Iran nuclear issue and pave the way for Iran’s return to compliance with its international nuclear obligations. An agreement would close all Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb, subject it to the most intrusive inspections in history and enhance regional and international security.

The Future of Nuclear Disarmament

President Obama declared in Prague in 2009 that the United States is committed to creating the conditions necessary to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The U.S. commitment to this goal is unassailable. The President acknowledged that this goal would not happen overnight, but requires patience, persistence, and “concrete steps” towards that final end. Of course, it is important to remember how far we’ve come – the U.S. nuclear stockpile today has been slashed 85% and is now at a level not seen since 1950s when Dwight Eisenhower was President.

As for criticisms that we are not moving fast enough on disarmament, let me just say that the offer President Obama made in 2013 in Berlin remains on the table. The United States is prepared to negotiate a 30% reduction in its deployed strategic arsenal below New START levels, but further progress requires a willing partner, which we don’t currently have. Decades of experience have taught us that there is no viable alternative to responsible and verifiable step-by-step approach to nuclear disarmament.

Along with the eventual elimination of existing nuclear weapons, the United States is committed to preventing the emergence of new ones.

We have been focused on this mission for decades. From 1993 to 2013, the “Megatons to Megawatts Program” converted 20,000 nuclear weapons’ worth of weapons-grade HEU from Russia into fuel for U.S. nuclear reactors. That is enough nuclear material to power every home in the United States for two straight years.

One of the challenges we will face in reaching the goal of a world without nuclear weapons will be to verify the elimination of nuclear material and nuclear warheads. This has never been done in any arms control agreement. That is why the United States has launched a new public-private venture called the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification or IPNDV. At the inaugural meeting just last month, the United States brought together a group of experts from 28 countries to begin the work of bridging the gap between the aspiration of nuclear disarmament and its reality.

Stewardship of the Enduring U.S. nuclear stockpile

While we work with the international community towards setting the conditions necessary to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal. President Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review highlighted the need for investments in the aging infrastructure of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Even as the Nuclear Posture Review marks a shift in the role of nuclear weapons away from the Cold War, we must remain responsible custodians of the complex, such as those at the Y-12 Facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which are contemporaries of Rosie the Riveter. Maintaining the U.S. nuclear stockpile and its supporting infrastructure is not inconsistent with arms control—the two concepts are actually mutually reinforcing.

Maintaining the infrastructure and weapons means we do not need to keep so many spare weapons, enabling us to safely reduce to a smaller stockpile. Nuclear modernization through the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program (SSMP) also is a major source for our support of the continued U.S. observation of a moratorium on nuclear explosives testing as well as support for entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). In short, we are investing in the people, science, and infrastructure to sustain and modernize our existing weapons so we do not have to invest in or develop new weapons.

Reassurance of Allies and Partners

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review acknowledges that the world has changed—the United States no longer sits atop a bipolar world, facing an adversary armed with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The challenges of the 21st century require additional tools, and allow for a reduced role for nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, it is clear that not all states that possess nuclear weapons are moving in the direction of reducing their inventories and the role those weapons play in their national security strategies; indeed, some states are actively building up their nuclear capabilities.

This is why the President has said that as long as nuclear weapons exist, the U.S. nuclear capability will be a component of our extended deterrence regime. The United States is committed to maintaining a credible deterrent, capable of convincing any potential adversary that the adverse consequences of attacking the United States or our allies and partners far outweigh any potential benefit they may seek to gain through an attack. Moreover, U.S. maintenance of a credible deterrent and the extension of it to our allies helps reinforce their commitments to never acquire their own nuclear weapons.

One area of particular concern is North Korea’s nuclear weapon program, which constitutes a serious threat to international peace and undermines the stability of the Korean Peninsula as well as the Northeast Asia region.

I echo the words of the President in saying that our commitment to the security of allies who live in the shadow of the North Korean threat will not waiver. The United States remains fully prepared and capable of defending itself, our allies, and the peace and security of the region with the full range of capabilities available, including our conventional and nuclear forces.

An important component of this effort is the work we do with Japan through the Extended Deterrence Dialogue and with the ROK through the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee. In my many bilateral consultations with our Japanese and South Korean partners, I can personally attest to how working through these security issues has strengthened our already strong bilateral alliances. These dialogues have enabled candid exchanges on our respective nations’ views and concerns about deterrence and the challenges of the 21st century, and have identified meaningful ways to strengthen our current deterrence posture as well as important areas of future effort.

Our efforts to strengthen alliances and partnerships are not limited to the Asia-Pacific, however. I recently returned from Romania where I reiterated the ironclad U.S. commitment to the security of our NATO Allies. The greatest responsibility of the NATO Alliance is to protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack, as set out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. We are committed to further strengthening the transatlantic bond and providing the resources, capabilities, and political will required to ensure the Alliance remains ready to meet any challenge.

As the United States considers the future of arms control, nonproliferation, and deterrence, we will continue to consult closely with our allies and partners every step of the way. The Obama Administration has made strengthening our alliances a key priority. We have promoted and deepened our cooperation in wide-ranging areas of common interest to address the changing security environment in the Euro-Atlantic and Asia Pacific regions.


In closing, the United States is proud of the progress we have made in reducing the number and role of nuclear weapons. In 1962, the decade before my birth, the United States and the Soviet Union were one single miscalculation away from igniting a devastating nuclear exchange during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Those thirteen fateful days in October of 1962 sparked a new drive by the United States to increase strategic stability between the Cold War rivals.

In the five decades since, the United States has worked within bilateral and multilateral frameworks to ensure that the nearly 70-year record of non-use of nuclear weapons is made permanent. Only through a constructive partnership among all nations – through pragmatic agreements like the NPT and the New START Treaties –can a world without nuclear weapons be ultimately realized. This is the message the United States will bring to the Nuclear Non-Nonproliferation Review Conference later this month.

I thank you for your time and for your interest in these issues.