The Nonproliferation and Disarmament Nexus

Ellen Tauscher
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Remarks to the Foundation for Strategic Research Conference
Paris, France
June 29, 2011

Thank you, Bruno, for that kind introduction. I want to convey my thanks to the Foundation for Strategic Research for hosting this public event as an adjunct to the critical dialogue taking place this week at the P-5 follow-on conference. Senior officials, and perhaps more importantly technical experts, from the P-5 have gathered here in Paris for a dialogue on the key confidence building and transparency measures that can help facilitate further disarmament.

The theme of today’s panel is “The Nonproliferation and Disarmament Nexus.” Too often, we approach these dual imperatives in a binary, “either or” fashion. That’s silly because they are two sides of the same coin.

Advances like the New START Treaty reinforce the nonproliferation regime, while success in restraining the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials is crucial if we are to proceed on further reductions. Disarmament cannot ultimately prevail so long as nonproliferation is neglected, and vice versa.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton understand this dynamic. Just four months into his Presidency, President Obama said that we can make the world safer from the threat of nuclear war and move toward a world without nuclear weapons. And, in Prague, he offered a path forward to do that.

As he declared at that time, “The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful energy.”

The progress we make, as the recognized nuclear-weapons states, helps build international support to bolster nonproliferation norms and reduce the odds that new states will join the nuclear club. This nexus between nonproliferation and disarmament is best embodied by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which legally binds nearly every country in the world.

It is for this reason that the international community is compelled to address the significant challenges Iran and North Korea pose. Their actions continue to undermine the treaties and institutions that underpin the global nonproliferation regime.

Iran remains unable to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful, as underscored by Director General Amano’s most recent report issued last month. The United States remains willing to engage with Iran to resolve the international community’s collective concerns, but Iran must take the initiative to engage in a serious and meaningful manner. Meanwhile, we continue to urge the IAEA to provide a comprehensive assessment regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

With respect to North Korea, if the regime can demonstrate a serious and sincere willingness to take concrete steps to initiate a denuclearization process and enhance regional stability, we are prepared to resume a dialogue. Until then, we will continue to take the necessary steps to counter North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles as well as its proliferation activities.

The more progress we make on addressing such serious nonproliferation challenges, the better placed we will be for further progress on disarmament. No one should doubt the U.S. commitment to that goal. President Obama has put forward a series of concrete steps to achieve the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons beginning with his landmark speech in Prague in April 2009. Taken together, these steps can provide a roadmap not just as we look forward to the 2012 NPT PrepCom and the 2015 Review Conference, but also in reaffirming our fundamental commitment to our Article VI obligations.

Over a year ago, the United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty. We brought it into force at the beginning of this year. When fully implemented, the United States and Russia’s deployed strategic warheads will be at their lowest levels since the 1950s.

The United States also released a Nuclear Posture Review that reduces the prominence of nuclear weapons in our national defense. We made clear that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons under extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners. We further noted that the fundamental role of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners. We also sought to underscore the security benefits of forswearing nuclear weapons by issuing a new “Negative Security Assurance” that declares the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states who are party to the NPT and complying with their nonproliferation obligations.

While an important milestone, the NPR certainly was not the end of the road for U.S. efforts. In March, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon announced that the Department of Defense will review our strategic requirements and develop options for further reductions in our nuclear stockpile. This effort could involve potential changes in targeting requirements and alert postures.

On transparency, at the NPT Review Conference last year, Secretary Clinton revealed the actual size of the United States stockpile and our annual warhead dismantlement figures to show how far we have come since the end of the Cold War.

However, no one nation can create the conditions that would lead to the day when nuclear weapons are obsolete. We need other countries to step forward with us and follow in our footsteps. Other countries need to be as transparent and as open as we are to provide confidence for deep reductions. Our actions show that transparency and security can go together. Secrecy may sometimes be necessary, but it also can lead to misunderstandings, miscalculations, and mistrust.

While we have a growing consensus that a world without nuclear weapons is in all our interests, it is still fragile. Nuclear disarmament itself is not necessarily the Holy Grail, especially if we do not increase international stability and security. The journey and each step along the way is just as important, if not more important than the destination. These steps can enhance our mutual security and create a growing sense of momentum.

It is for this very reason why the P-5 follow-on conference, which begins tomorrow morning and will continue through Friday, is such a valuable exercise. It is a successor to an initial conference held in London in September 2009.

All of us have brought our experts from capitals to have a frank and detailed exchange on verification and transparency measures that can further enable future steps on disarmament.

From an American perspective, we so enjoy coming to these conferences that we want to make it a regular habit. It is important that our emerging dialogue in the P-5 context evolve into a regular component of our bilateral and multilateral relationships. That is essential if we are to make progress on the objectives set forth in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan.

One core principle we should all share is that, as we draw down, other countries should not build up. That is why the United States is investing so much energy to begin negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). There are already too many nuclear weapons and too much fissile material for such weapons in this world. We do not need more fissile material that could be used to make more bombs, and we do not want to add to the risk of theft or misuse.

It remains our strong preference to house FMCT negotiations within the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Yet, so long as efforts to agree on a Program of Work remain deadlocked, it is only appropriate that we explore alternate venues.

Preserving the FMCT inside the CD when that body remains paralyzed only ensures that progress on an FMCT will remain out of our collective grasp.

We also call on others to continue the moratorium on explosive testing. The Obama Administration remains committed to securing U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. We are initiating a significant process of engagement with Members of our Congress to highlight what has changed since the Senate last took up this Treaty.

Let me conclude by quoting from our Nuclear Posture Review: “It is in the United States’ interest and that of all other nations that the nearly sixty-five year record of nuclear non-use be extended forever.” So long as such weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective deterrent. But our hope and interest remains that these weapons will never be used again as we move, in a step-by-step manner, toward their eventual abolition. The measures we discuss this week, and the possible momentum they may create, can help contribute to that ultimate goal. And they will help reinforce and strengthen the nonproliferation norm.

Thank you. I’m happy to answer any questions that you may have.