Dr. Schneider and Major General Manner, thank you so much for inviting me to speak today and for your kind introduction. I know the history of this conference and know that, over the years, it has been instrumental in bringing together people and ideas to consider how best to confront the challenges of weapons of mass destruction. I’m honored to stand here among many friends and colleagues. In many ways this is like an old homecoming gathering: I well remember speaking to this conference when it was held in Norfolk in 2001. For those I have not met, let me say that I look forward to working with you in the coming years.
Since this conference is co-sponsored by the Air Force, I want you to know that I’m aware every young Air Force officer is taught at Squadron Officer School that every briefing should have three main points. I said that I’m aware of that guidance; I didn’t say I would follow it – I actually have five points to make.
First, I want to provide you some context and background on the Obama Administration’s views on arms control and nuclear disarmament. Then I will brief you on the on-going negotiation of a follow-on agreement to replace the expiring START Treaty. Finally, I will make a few comments about other critical goals for this Administration on nuclear security policy: the ratification of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the negotiation of a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), and President Obama’s vision for a future arms control agreement after START Follow-on.
Context and Background
President Obama and Secretary Clinton both have made clear their views on nuclear weapons reductions and have made a commitment, a commitment that I share, to making future generations safe from the horrors of nuclear war. On April 5 of this year, in Prague, President Obama made the first of four major foreign policy speeches. In Prague, the President set forth a specific agenda to address the challenges posed by the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He articulated a bold vision, to “seek the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons” no matter how hard it might be or how long it might take.
To achieve this goal, we must make a break from Cold War thinking and create an updated nuclear posture, the role, size, and composition of which reflects more accurately our present and future national security requirements. We must address the threats in the international environment, continue to deter our adversaries, and guarantee the defense of our allies. We recognize the realities of the world that we live in today, and the President has said that, “as long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal.” Any changes in our nuclear posture, moreover, must result from a deliberative, diligent process. And, as you know, that process is now underway as part of the congressionally-mandated Nuclear Posture Review being led by DoD in consultation with DOE and the State Department.
We are under no illusions that we will be without challenge in aligning our nuclear posture for the 21st century in a way that simultaneously reinforces peace and security while reducing the salience of nuclear weapons worldwide. Achieving this end state requires creative transformational thinking, persistence, the assembly of a skilled workforce, and the marshalling of critical infrastructure. And you, in this room, are among the transformational thinkers and the skilled workforce upon whom we will depend to make good on our ambitions.
The United States and Russia have the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, arsenals that are legacies of the Cold War. As you know, both countries have already reduced their nuclear stockpiles significantly since the end of the Cold War. Many of those reductions were done in accordance with treaty obligations; some were done as a result of unilateral decisions made by Washington and Moscow to make further reductions. Yet ironically, now twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, and despite the implementation of arms control agreements between Russia and the United States, the chances of a nuclear detonation somewhere in the world seem greater than at points during the Cold War. Nuclear programs continue to exist elsewhere, a few countries are developing nuclear weapons, and terrorists groups seem bent on acquiring nuclear material by whatever means they can. So, while we made enormous progress reducing the number of weapons, there remains much more we must do towards fulfilling the President’s increasingly broadly shared vision of “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
Let me now talk about some of the steps that this Administration is taking on the long road from Prague. Our first priority is to negotiate a new START Treaty because, as you know, the current one expires on December 5, 2009. We must work with the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and we plan to begin work to negotiate a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in the UN’s Conference on Disarmament in January.
As the President’s START Follow-on negotiator, let me tell you where we stand on the new treaty. Of course, we are fortunate to begin our work on the foundations already established by the INF, START, and the Moscow Treaties as well as the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our many years of experience in implementing those treaties, in both bilateral and multilateral settings, will help us as we press forward in negotiating a replacement for the START Treaty by December.
My delegation met with our Russian counterparts four times leading up to the July Moscow Summit and once after. As you’ve seen in the press, those talks were “businesslike and productive” and allowed us to conclude the Joint Understanding at the Summit. The Joint Understanding provides an outline of what the new treaty will look like, but a great deal of work still needs to be completed to fill in the details. With that in mind, I want to walk you through some of the main points of the new START treaty.
The first point is that it will combine the predictability of START with the flexibility of the Moscow Treaty, but at lower numbers of delivery vehicles and their associated warheads. This flexibility gives us the freedom to determine our nuclear force structure within set limits to be established by this new treaty. This flexibility is clearly stated in paragraph four of the Joint Understanding, which underscores that each party will be able to determine the structure of its strategic forces for itself. The Moscow Summit’s Joint Understanding sets two separate limits – one for strategic delivery vehicles and the other for their associated warheads. The Joint Understanding stated a wide range of 500-1100 delivery vehicles and 1500-1675 warheads. These ranges will be narrowed through further negotiation – they are not the final numbers for the Treaty and this expectation is made clear in the Joint Understanding: “The specific numbers to be recorded in the treaty for these limits will be agreed through further negotiation.”
The new treaty will also draw from the START verification regime; and, therefore, will provide predictability regarding the strategic forces on both sides – both for existing force structure and modernization programs.
In the Joint Understanding, Presidents Obama and Medvedev reaffirmed the long-standing common position that acknowledges the interrelationship between offensive and defensive systems, something first recognized by the Nixon Administration in 1972. The new Treaty is breaking no new ground on this issue. Both Presidents Obama and Medvedev agreed in their April 1 statement in London that the new START Treaty is about strategic offensive arms. While the United States has long agreed that there is a relationship between missile offense and defense, we believe the START Follow-on Treaty is not the appropriate vehicle for addressing missile defense. We have agreed, however, to continue to discuss the topic of missile defense with Russia in a separate venue.
The United States and Russia have agreed, in the Joint Understanding, that existing patterns of cooperation with third parties will not be affected by this treaty. This measure will appear in the new treaty exactly as it appeared in START, so there will be no treaty constraints on our longstanding strategic cooperation with the United Kingdom. The Joint Understanding also calls for a provision in the new treaty concerning the impact on strategic stability of strategic ballistic missiles in non-nuclear configurations, which are sometimes called “conventional global strike weapons.” How such weapons will be addressed in the treaty is still a matter under discussion.
I want to take a minute to address some of the criticisms directed at the new START Treaty. Some say that START Follow-on will not induce other countries to give up their weapons programs. In and of itself, START Follow-on does not exist for that purpose. For the Administration, the new treaty is valuable in that it will enhance our national security. It will establish a strategic balance that reflects the current security environment in a way that benefits each party and promotes peace and stability. Moreover, the ability of the United States to persuade other nations to act collectively against those states committed to developing nuclear weapons will be bolstered through reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals. It is a matter of moral suasion.
Critics have also said that we are agreeing on the New START Treaty ahead of the completion of the Nuclear Posture Review. That is not the case. The Obama Administration tasked the NPR working groups, as a first step, to develop a nuclear force structure and posture for use in these negotiations. While the NPR’s work is still ongoing, it will continue to inform the positions taken by the United States as it negotiates the new START Treaty with Russia.
Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty
The second major arms control objective of the Obama Administration is the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). There is no step that we could take that would more effectively restore our moral leadership and improve our ability to reenergize the international nonproliferation consensus than to ratify the CTBT. We fully recognize that this will not be an easy task and we will work closely with the Senate, different parts of the administration and key stakeholders to achieve this goal. But here, too, we must construct a new paradigm from the debate over this same issue in 1999. Simply put, the world has changed. Nuclear Weapons States have adapted over the past 17 years since they undertook testing moratoria. Technology has changed. We are better able to detect nuclear tests and much more certain in our ability to certify the reliability of the U.S. stockpile without testing. But we realize there is more to do. We have embarked on a significant set of efforts that will prepare the Administration to seek the advice and consent of the Senate. And even as we pursue ratification, we will work hard with others to ensure that the requirements for the CTBT’s entry into force are met at the earliest possible date.
Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty
In addition, we will work to reduce the materials needed to produce nuclear weapons. Achieving a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) is an essential condition for a world free of nuclear weapons. If the international community is serious about building down, we must constrain the ability to build up. We are working hard to keep the United Nations’ Conference on Disarmament – the CD – focused on this goal. We firmly believe that negotiating an FMCT is both achievable and worthwhile.
Many discount the relevance of such a treaty, citing the large stockpiles of fissile materials held by nuclear weapons states. But it should be obvious that as nuclear arsenals come down, it will become increasingly important to have limitations on fissile material that could be used to produce new weapons.
Finally, let me close with a look to the future. When Presidents Obama and Medvedev met in London in April, they issued two Joint Statements. The first, as I’ve already mentioned, launched negotiation of a START Follow-on Treaty. The second Statement was broader in scope and emphasized, among other items, the notion that the START Follow-on Treaty was the first step in a process of pursuing further nuclear weapons reductions. I believe a new START Treaty is an essential step on the path to deeper reductions in the future. Just as important, it begins a new narrative for our post-Cold War world, one that recognizes the need to eliminate the paralyzing threat of nuclear war by eliminating nuclear weapons.
I’ve titled this speech “The Long Road from Prague.” And it really is a long road to a nuclear free world. There will be obstacles along the way; the journey will be difficult, and require enormous efforts to address the insecurities in many regions around the world that may lead some to seek nuclear weapons. But it is a journey that we must take. We do not have to live in a world where there is even one more nuclear-armed country. We must also confront the nightmarish possibility of terrorists getting their hands on the bomb. That’s why the Administration is working so hard to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide, while simultaneously recognizing that we must proceed toward that goal in a measured, practical and mutually beneficial manner that protects and promotes our own and global security.
As I said at the beginning of this talk, this journey will require, creative transformational thinking, and persistence. We all must do our part and I look forward to sharing the road with you. Thank you.