Remarks at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

Anita E. Friedt
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
London, United Kingdom
June 2, 2016

As prepared

Thanks again for welcoming me. I’m Anita Friedt and I serve as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Bureau. Our Bureau negotiates and implements arms control treaties and agreements, and we verify that parties to those treaties comply with their obligations.

In the mid 1980’s President Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev transformed how we verify treaties governing weapons of mass destruction. The Treaties being negotiated then—the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty—incorporated new verification features designed to expand cooperation and build trust among parties. In addition to “eyes in the sky,” the use of satellites to verify limits on strategic delivery vehicles, this new generation of Treaties allowed on-site inspections of facilities and of treaty-limited items.

In 1987, Premier Gorbachev famously quipped to President Reagan “You repeat (the term trust but verify) at every meeting,” to which President Reagan shot back, “I like it.” Today, the United States still likes it. The 2010 New START Treaty is the latest to employ a combination of data exchanges, on-site inspections, and national technical means to verify the Treaty is being faithfully implemented.

Buttressed by this robust verification architecture, New START Treaty implementation is proceeding well and both the United States and Russia are expected to meet the Treaty’s central limits when they take effect in February 2018. The United States made an offer in 2013 to seek to negotiate another round of strategic nuclear reductions of up to one-third from New START levels, however, Russia has yet to agree. Even as we work to resolve the political challenges that obstruct further progress, we have accelerated work in other areas that could serve as incubators for verification solutions for use in a future arms control treaty or agreement.

To that end, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, established an International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification in 2014. The Partnership is founded on the principle that progress need not be held hostage to the ebbs and flows of the political environment. The diverse makeup of the Partnership—which includes countries from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America and collaboration from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)—underscores our belief that good ideas do not come from any one place.

Let me give you an example of why we are continuing to focus on building capacity to verify arms control agreements:

The verification measures in the New START Treaty—as intrusive as they are—may not be sufficient for effective verification in the future. Future agreements may need to transition from counting warheads affixed to strategic delivery vehicles to counting individual warheads themselves. Warheads are not only a new item of account; they may be located in types of facilities never visited before by inspectors. As we lower levels of nuclear weapons, the bar for effective verification will climb even higher. And as a future verification regime shifts from a bilateral to a multilateral arrangement, we will confront additional technical challenges such as preventing the transfer of proliferation sensitive information.

For all the progress we have made on verification, we know that we have yet to exploit new types of data to conquer the hard security issues of our day. For example, open source data that we all rely on—Google Earth—currently cannot be used to verify a state’s declarations on its strategic forces.

It is clear that the traditional means of tracking nuclear weapons need to keep pace with the evolving threat. With this challenge as the backdrop, Deputy Secretary of State Blinken and Under Secretary of State Gottemoeller led a first of its kind workshop in Silicon Valley in April, “The Hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction: Leveraging New Technology.” The Workshop paired academics, NGOs, and foundations who are steeped in nuclear weapons issues with technologists. In the coming months, we will look to marshal the diverse skill sets of these professionals to address our evolving WMD challenges.

While the ideas and experiments are just now germinating, it is clear that that there is indeed a role for citizens and technologists to play. As Under Secretary Gottemoeller remarked at the Stanford Workshop, “in this era of infinite information, our inherent ability to verify and detect things has actually grown. We just have to figure out how to harness the information for our purposes.”

With that in mind, I will now turn the floor over to two experts who are working on solutions to formidable technical challenges. Paul Beaumont, will speak on how to enhance transparency in the verification of future arms control treaties and agreements. Next, we will hear from Yan-Jie Schnellbach, on a novel technical way of detecting the diversion of civilian nuclear fuel for weapons purposes.