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Diplomacy in Action

The Legacy of U.S.-Russia Nonproliferation Cooperation

Julie B. Mills, Foreign Affairs Action Officer, Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (ISN/CTR)
Moscow Center for Energy and Security Studies
Moscow, Russia
December 3, 2012


As Prepared for Delivery

Date: 12/03/2012 Location: Moscow, Russia Description: Foreign Affairs Action Officer Julie B. Mills delivered remarks on The Legacy of U.S.-Russia Nonproliferation Cooperation, in Moscow on Dec. 3. - State Dept Image

I would like to begin by thanking Anton Khlopkov and the Center for Energy and Security Studies for hosting this afternoon’s event. As I understand it, CENESS is a relatively new organization, but it is already well known in the international security community as an important connector of thinkers and policymakers. Last September’s Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, which CENESS organized, is just one example. Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Rose Gottemoeller – whom I understand many in this room know well – enjoyed the opportunity to give the keynote address at that event, and asked me to congratulate you once again on its success.  

In my remarks this afternoon, I’d like to take a brief moment to review the successful legacy of U.S.-Russia cooperation to promote international security I hope that our discussion today will generate some ideas from both sides on how best to continue our successful cooperation in the future.  

It is easy to point to our differences and the tensions in our relationship. These make great plots for films and books. However, our shared history has repeatedly demonstrated that, when it is needed most, our two nations step forward with the leadership that is required to advance our mutual strategic interests. This is particularly true when we have focused our attention on strengthening our cooperation in the area of nonproliferation. In this vein, I’d like to highlight some of the prominent successes we’ve achieved together in creating a robust bilateral and multilateral nonproliferation partnership.

Even at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States found ways in which to turn competition into cooperation in pursuit of our mutual interests. A shining example of this is in the area of scientific exchange and research. In 1962, almost in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev sent Kennedy a letter raising the possibility of space cooperation after John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. That led to discussions between the two nations, which ultimately yielded an agreement that would establish an exchange of weather data from satellites and the eventual coordinated launching of meteorological satellites. It also led to a joint effort to map the geomagnetic field of Earth and cooperation in the experimental relay of communications. As we all know, today, U.S. astronauts and Russian cosmonauts continue to work and live together on the International Space Station, gaining invaluable experience for this planet’s future endeavors in the exploration of space.

Cooperation in the area of arms control and nonproliferation has also endured for decades, starting with Soviet and U.S. participation in establishing the IAEA in 1957. It was in the obvious interest of our governments to work together to restrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons while encouraging international cooperation on civilian nuclear research. In 1963, both nations agreed to a Limited Test Ban Treaty and a "hotline" system connecting the leaders of the two governments to ensure that we did not stumble into conflict by some tragic accident.

The SALT talks, which began in 1969, initiated what would become a herculean effort to significantly draw down the number of strategic nuclear weapons possessed by the two nations. Continued talks in the 1980’s with START, and then with the “New START” Treaty concluded in 2010, resulted in the largest reduction of deployed nuclear weapons since the 1950s, with a limit of 1,550 warheads for each country. We should also not forget the INF Treaty, which eliminated an entire category of weapons systems and is marking its 25th Anniversary this year.  

Looking now to the future, we hope to ultimately reach a world with zero nuclear weapons, as President Obama said in Prague in 2009. We recognize this may be a long process, but believe this is a goal that will be attained someday.  

Perhaps the most intensive cooperation between our countries has taken place under the auspices of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which was started in 1992 by Senators Nunn and Lugar. These efforts have resulted in the destruction and decommissioning of almost 8,000 nuclear warheads, over 900 ICBMs, and hundreds of other launchers and missiles. The program has helped in the destruction of much of the former Soviet Union’s chemical weapons stocks. Previously vulnerable chemical, biological, and nuclear research and testing facilities have been made secure, and thousands of former weapons scientists are now engaged in peaceful research pursuits. 

Through Cooperative Threat Reduction and the Megatons to Megawatts program, hundreds of tons of Soviet-produced highly enriched uranium have been recovered from former facilities and downblended to low enriched uranium, which now powers one out of every ten light bulbs burned in the U.S. It’s pretty incredible to think that a tenth of the electrical power we use in the United States today comes from former nuclear warheads once poised to destroy it.  

Cooperative Threat Reduction activities have taken place all across the former Soviet Union and this program has served as a model for expansion into other parts of the world. Clearly, each individual country experiences its own unique and distinct set of proliferation challenges, but the experience and expertise gained from 20 years of U.S.-Russia cooperation provide our two nations with an opportunity for leadership in addressing threats in other parts of the world and new challenges, including those coming from non-state actors.  

Let me cite another great example of how Russia and the United States have applied their partnership and experience in addressing proliferation challenges in a changing international environment is through the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. This international effort, co-led by our two nations, was started in 2005, and now enjoys participation by over 85 nations. Through capacity-building activities, participating nations develop experience and expertise to address the nexus of nuclear proliferation and the threat from non-state actors.  

As you know, Russia has decided to withdraw from the International Science and Technology Center (ISTC), now headquartered here in Moscow. We understand, of course, that the situation has changed significantly since the ISTC began operations almost twenty years ago. The ISTC has a long and impressive list of scientific accomplishments here in Russia, but your economy has recovered, and your government feels quite capable of supporting research by Russian scientists and scientific institutes. Notwithstanding Russian’s decision to withdraw from the ISTC, I am confident that the nonproliferation and scientific collaboration between our nations, as well as with the other ISTC member states of the former Soviet Union, will continue and grow in the years ahead.  

I hope I’ve been able to illustrate for you a number of specific examples where the United States and Russia have reached common ground to further our strategic objectives on nonproliferation cooperation. I understand that, as with any healthy relationship, we will continue to have differences of opinion on how we view a number of issues. But we must continue our dialogue on how best to use our expertise to satisfy our mutual interests. History has shown us that even in the face of adversity, both nations have found ways in which to cooperate to promote a more safe and secure world, and I am confident that we will continue to develop this cooperation well into the future. Thank you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we might accomplish this, and I am glad to try to answer your questions.

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