SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and let me state the obvious. I am very pleased that Foreign Minister Lavrov and I are able to do this together. We have had many meetings over the past 15 months and I always look forward to a productive discussion, a candid exchange of views, and a determination to make progress together.
This is an historic time for U.S.-Russian relations. Last week, our presidents signed the new START treaty, which will make our two countries and the world safer and more secure by reducing the number of strategic nuclear weapons in our stockpiles. And this week, we’ve gathered with representatives from more than 45 nations to address the urgent global threat posed by vulnerable nuclear material.
And now, we are taking another step to increase our mutual security and deepen our bilateral cooperation. Under the agreement we are about to sign, the United States and Russia will each irreversibly and transparently dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. Together, that is enough material for nearly 17,000 nuclear weapons. And we will put in place the framework and infrastructure needed to dispose of even more plutonium from defense programs in the future.
The agreement provides for monitoring and inspections that will ensure that this material will never again be used for weapons or any other military purpose. By using civil nuclear reactors to dispose of the plutonium, we gain an added benefit – to produce electricity for our people, even as we remove a potential serious danger.
And I want to thank the two teams from both Russia and the United States who worked together to hammer out this agreement. I see familiar faces, both from my country and now, after so many meetings, familiar faces from Russia. And Minister Lavrov and I could not be standing here without the extraordinary expertise and commitment that these teams brought to this occasion. Thank you very much.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Thank you. And I believe that the protocol which we are about to sign, the protocol to the agreement on utilization of weapon-grade plutonium, the agreement of the year 2000, actually, signed at that time but not implemented because of some technical reasons – the protocol which we are signing today is going to remove those technical impediments and obstacles, and the agreement would be implemented in practical terms.
Thirty-four tons of plutonium, which the United States and Russia each would utilize, is a lot. It’s certainly a step in the direction of our shared goal of nuclear disarmament, because apart from actual limitations and reductions in nuclear strategic offensive arms, you need to do something about the plutonium which is released because of that process. And the event which you are witnessing here today is of – well, maybe not less important, but certainly it’s of very significant importance.
And we would be doing this process, we would be doing these – implementing these obligations transparently, as the Secretary said, and in the way which would absolutely preclude military use of this plutonium in the future and which ensure its effective and safe usage for peaceful purposes to produce nuclear energy. And we certainly consider that this step is the contribution by the Russian Federation and the United States towards the implementation of Article Six of the Nonproliferation Treaty.
When this mechanism starts working, we expect its positive influence on the process of nonproliferation, including making the process of nuclear disarmament multilateral at some point, hopefully not very far from today. And this is what we believe is the significance of this event. To utilize 34 metric tons of plutonium in Russia, the Russian Government will spend approximately $2.5 billion and we are grateful to the United States for contributing to this program by providing up to $400 million for this particular program.
Thank you very much, and I join the Secretary in thanking the teams which negotiated this agreement.
MODERATOR: Secretary of State Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov are signing the protocol to amend the 2000 agreement on the Management and Disposition of Plutonium No Longer Required for Defense Purposes.
(The protocol was signed.)
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