Opening Remarks to the 2nd Plenary Meeting of the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV)

Frank A. Rose
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Oslo, Norway
November 16, 2015

First, I want to begin by thanking all the delegations for making the trip to Oslo this week. Last December, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, announced the initiative – an international partnership to further the understanding of the many complex challenges involved in the verification of nuclear disarmament, and to work collaboratively to surmount those challenges. This Partnership is part of a “full spectrum” approach to advancing NPT nuclear disarmament goals through practical steps along all available avenues.

Today, after nearly a year of preparation, we are ready to begin this complex and meaningful technical work. This morning I think it would be of value for all of us to review the important areas of work for the Partnership.

But first, allow me to highlight a historical and conceptual backdrop for context and perspective. Governments and experts alike have viewed arms control from a myriad of viewpoints – including from the standpoint of cooperative security, national security and international security. For example, we in the United States do not look at arms control or disarmament in isolation from deterrence requirements or from the general strategic environment.

Nonetheless we do appreciate the unique security value of nuclear arms control agreements, as they can provide both transparency and predictability on deployed nuclear forces. There are a few important factors the United States considers when we assess the merits of arms control proposals and approaches. These factors are stability, predictability, confidence, mutual restraint, and general trust. These factors can be positively affected by a wisely constructed verification regime. The level and nature of verification and the commensurate degree of tolerable uncertainty vary from agreement to agreement, depending on the specific objectives of each agreement. As one envisions the types of agreements to reduce nuclear weapons to very low levels or eliminate them entirely, the margin for error shrinks in proportion to the increasing security and strategic implications of a party’s noncompliance.

So when we speak of “the technical challenges for monitoring and verifying nuclear disarmament,” we essentially mean verification solutions that are powerful enough to remove much of this error.

The first U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) exemplify the critical importance that technological advances can have in achieving arms control goals. When the talks began in 1969, satellite imagery was a relatively new technology, barely a decade old. But ultimately that was the technology that made an agreement possible in what was a very tense and uncertain security environment. An agreement that would, for the first time, put limits on the numbers of deployed strategic platforms on both sides. A landmark arms control achievement, and also one that hung on the application of a new technology.

For nuclear disarmament going forward this same scenario could play out again. The mere existence of some future technology could determine whether an agreement succeeds or fails. The partnership we are a part of cannot invent technologies before their time, but we can ask some of the right technical questions, and perhaps even conduct some of the necessary research at fundamental levels that could be tailored to specific monitoring and verification applications. So in my view this would be one important area of work for our partnership.

A second important work area for IPNDV will be to understand how the nature and role of inspections will evolve to meet the needs of future agreements. We should address the reality that future arms control treaties and agreements will need to contain more intrusive inspection provisions, to include access to previously inaccessible sensitive facilities and incorporating new items that are subject to inspection. The provisions written into future agreements will be absolutely critical to success. Just fourteen lines of text in the New START Treaty are devoted to the central limits for deployed warheads and deployed and non-deployed strategic delivery systems. What gives the parties confidence that those levels are met and what contributes to predictability and stability are the cumulative monitoring and inspection procedures that make up the more than 350 pages of the New START Treaty. New inspection protocols, combined with new applications of existing technologies, could yield powerful monitoring and verification schemes - full, integrated solutions with both human and technological dimensions.

I want to conclude by reminding us that the Partnership provides a forum to continue the important, ongoing technical dialogue between states that possess nuclear weapons and those that don’t. I consider this a 3rd important area of work, with value in its own right. Progress toward our shared disarmament goals requires practical, step-by-step approaches. Partnership meetings and workshops are intended to help all states better understand the difficulties and complexities of nuclear disarmament verification, including discussion of how we might overcome these complexities. And we can pursue this technical dialogue independent of the ebbs and flows of the political environment of arms control.

IPNDV then is a way the United States believes we can make real, substantive progress toward our shared disarmament goals. Furthermore, by pooling together the collective expertise from states with and states without nuclear weapons, we can build confidence – multilateral confidence - in the tools, technologies, and methods that will enable us to monitor and verify future nuclear disarmament activities. Once again, on behalf of the United States, I want to thank you very much for your attendance and participation this week. Our Norwegian hosts have organized a truly remarkable program; a unique and valuable nexus of conversations and opportunities for learning and problem-solving. Thank you very much and best wishes as we take this journey together.