High Level Briefing on U.S. Efforts in Support of Nuclear Disarmament

Rose Gottemoeller
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
NPT RevCon Side Meeting, Trusteeship Council
New York City, NY
April 29, 2015

As prepared

Thank you, Adam. I am happy to be here with Administrator Klotz and Assistant Secretary Scher. I am also pleased to see so many people here today.

Six years ago in Prague, President Obama laid out his vision for the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons, not as a desirable, but unattainable dream, but as an achievable long-term goal. He laid out this vision because the United States cannot and will not accept a world that remains forever under the shadow of nuclear war or nuclear terror.

There should be no doubt: the U.S. commitment to achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons is steadfast. Today, as Ambassador Scheinman said, Administrator Klotz will explain how U.S. investments in our nuclear infrastructure will enable us to move to lower and lower numbers of nuclear weapons. Assistant Secretary Scher will outline how the United States is reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.

Their presentations are rooted in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and the implementation guidance that followed in 2013. In the NPR, the United States properly refocused our nuclear policy for the 21st century, recognizing that the massive nuclear arsenal that the United States built to confront the threats of the Cold War is poorly suited for today’s security environment, where the threats posed by nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation have increased.

Indeed, the threat of nuclear war has been eclipsed by threat of nuclear terrorism – an amorphous, ever-changing threat that has no home address. As the world works to further reduce and prevent the spread of stockpiles of nuclear weapons and to provide the best nuclear security, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) remains an essential tool.

For its part, the United States is fulfilling its commitments in all three pillars of the NPT, including disarmament.

The United States’ responsible approach to arms control and disarmament has already led to major reductions in nuclear weapons, fissile material stocks and infrastructure. These efforts have led us to reduce our nuclear arsenal by approximately 85% from its Cold War heights. In real numbers, that means we have gone from 31,255 nuclear weapons in our active stockpile in 1967 to 4,717 in 2014. That is still too many and we know it, so we will continue to push ahead.

The New START Treaty, which just celebrated its fourth birthday, is enhancing security and strategic stability between the United States and Russia. Both nations are faithfully implementing the Treaty’s inspection regime. Current tensions with the Russian Federation highlight the durability of the verification regime and the important confidence that is provided by data exchanges and on-site inspections under the Treaty, as well as the security and predictability provided by verifiable mutual limits on strategic weapons.

I cannot stress this point enough. The 18 on-site inspections each nation conducts, combines with thousands of notifications required by the Treaty to create a real-time picture of our respective arsenals. At a time when trust has become difficult, New START allows us to verify.

Using the employment guidance for the NPR, President Obama determined that we can ensure the security of the United States, our allies and partners and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while safely pursuing up to a one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear weapons from the level established in the New START Treaty.

Following that assessment, in June 2013 in Berlin, President Obama stated U.S. willingness to negotiate with the Russians a reduction of up to one-third of our deployed strategic warheads from the level established in the New START Treaty. That offer is still on the table. Progress requires a willing partner and a conducive strategic environment.

Everyone here knows that the environment is not great due to the Russian Federation’s actions in Ukraine and Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). Addressing both situations is an ongoing process. With specific regard to the Russian INF violation, we will continue engaging the Russian government to resolve U.S. concerns. Our objective is for Russia to return to verifiable compliance with its INF obligations, as the Treaty is in our mutual security interest and that of the globe.

Even with our current problems -- actually even more so because of them -- the United States is committed to maintaining strategic stability between the U.S. and Russia and we support continuing a dialogue aimed at fostering a more stable, resilient, and transparent security relationship.

Of course, I want to be very clear, as the United States considers any arms control priorities, we will continue to consult closely with our allies and partners every step of the way. Our security and defense -- and theirs -- is non-negotiable.

On the multilateral disarmament front, I will just briefly touch on a few things. We continue disarmament discussions with our P5 partners. We had our sixth P5 Conference in London a couple months ago and we continue to break new ground in our discussions. The process we are creating is the way we will build a firm foundation for future multilateral arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation efforts.

Further, as we consider future reductions, our focus must be on achievable and verifiable measures that all interested parties – nuclear states and non-nuclear states alike – can trust. That is why we recently started the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, which will bring countries together to develop the best techniques and tools for monitoring nuclear stockpiles at lower numbers.

The United States is expanding public outreach on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). We will not be setting timeframes for moving forward with a vote on the Hill, but we know that the CTBT is good for American national security and that is why we will continue educating the country on the treaty’s merits. I will personally travel to U.S. states affected by nuclear explosive testing over the next 6 months. We will also keep fighting for the commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD). It is the essential and logical next step in disarmament.

We are also continuing work to bring into force the protocols to the African, South Pacific and Central Asian nuclear weapon free zone treaties (NWFZ), and to resolve issues that have prevented signing of the Southeast Asia NWFZ protocol. Support for NWFZ protocols enhances the value of these regional nonproliferation agreements.

Of course, progress on disarmament is not limited to treaties. The United States takes what I like to call a full spectrum approach to disarmament and this approach encompasses progress on eliminating fissile material. The work we have been doing as part of the Nuclear Security Summit process has been instrumental to ensuring the safety and security of people around the world.

Through our collective efforts, we have increased global engagement on this critical issue, and in turn, decreased the amount of vulnerable HEU and plutonium worldwide, as well as the number of facilities where such material is kept. For many of the remaining facilities storing weapons-usable fissile material, we have upgraded security to keep them safe and resistant to a variety of threats. These and other Summit efforts have reduced the risk that fissile material will fall into the wrong hands. The United States knows that nuclear security efforts are never "finished." As long as nuclear and radioactive materials exist, they require our utmost commitment to their protection, control, accounting and disposition.

Finally, we are aware that the “nuclear sword of Damocles,” as so eloquently described by President John F. Kennedy, still hangs above the head of every man, woman and child on this planet. That concept has weighed heavy on the hearts and minds of U.S. leaders since the dawn of the nuclear age. Our deep understanding of the humanitarian consequences has become and will always be inseparable from our nuclear policy.

We are facing challenges; there is no doubt of that. When he chaired the United Nations Security Council in September of 2009, President Obama said that “we harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons.”

“We know,” he said, that “there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days…that push us forward.”

I have seen those days and so have you. Many of those days, if not most of those days, had a foundation in the NPT, so it is up to us to support this important Treaty.

With that I will stop, but thanks again for being here and I look forward to our discussion.