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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to U.S. Strategic Command Deterrence Symposium


Speech
Ellen Tauscher
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
U.S. Strategic Command
Omaha, Nebraska
July 30, 2009

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General Chilton, thank you for your kind introduction. I have to say that as a Member of Congress it was a privilege to listen to many of you testify or brief the House Armed Services Committee or the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. Today, it is an honor for me to address you as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. I look forward to working closely together.

I’ve been on the job at the State Department for four weeks now and I’ve been married for five weeks. As some of you know I had to say ‘I do’ on the same day. So it’s an exciting time for me personally and it’s exciting to be a part of an administration with such an ambitious agenda.

President Obama, Secretary Clinton and I share a commitment to making future generations safe from the horrors of nuclear war. And, this spring, in Prague, President Obama set forth a specific and bold agenda. He gave us the vision for our work to rid the world of nuclear weapons, no matter how hard it might be or how long it might take for the conditions to take hold.

I want to take this time to fill in some of the details of his agenda. As President Obama said, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the chances of a nuclear detonation somewhere in the world have increased. Even as the United States and Russia have taken steps to reduce our nuclear stockpiles, other countries continue to pursue and expand their nuclear capabilities. Terrorists want these weapons, too.

That’s why we need to come up with an updated nuclear posture where the role, size, and composition of our nuclear stockpile more accurately reflect the threat environment we face today and in the future. We must do this while continuing to deter any nuclear armed adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies.

At the same time, we have the chance to craft a new narrative for the 21st century where achieving the peace and security of the world without nuclear weapons is no longer the ambition of a few visionaries. It is now the ambition of many peoples and nations. Establishing a new direction will require creative and transformational thinking, persistence, persuasion, a skilled workforce and critical infrastructure.

We have started this journey by addressing the formidable arsenals that the United States and Russia maintain.  I want to acknowledge Ambassador Kislyak, who has joined us today. His presence and our ongoing work to reduce our arsenals and minimize the risk of nuclear war and nuclear terrorism shows that our relationship is fundamentally different than it was during the Cold War.

As I said, we have a full agenda. We’re working on multiple fronts to implement President Obama’s strategy. We’re working aggressively on the START follow-on treaty, because, as you know, the current one will expire on December 5.  We are beginning the complex work of seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  We have already moved to restart negotiations to achieve a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

And, finally, we are moving to ensure that the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference next year is a success. This is something that is much needed given the great stress placed upon the treaty over the past several years.  Let me start by making the strongest case I can for the New START Treaty.

I believe the New START Treaty is the beginning of a new narrative for the post-Cold War generation that need not be paralyzed by the threat of nuclear war and it is a down payment for deeper reductions in the future.

We are fortunate to begin our work on the foundations already established by the Limited Test Ban, INF, SALT, START, and the Moscow Treaty as well as the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rose Gottemoeller and an interagency team are hard at work with their Russian counterparts drafting the New START treaty that will combine the predictability of START with the flexibility of the Moscow Treaty. In the recent Moscow Summit’s Joint Understanding, two separate limits are set out for delivery vehicles and their associated warheads. In case there is doubt, you can find it in paragraph four of the Joint Understanding. Both of these steps will enhance our national security and provide for an effective deterrent.

I want to take a minute to address some of the criticism that’s been directed at the New START treaty. Some say that the new treaty will not induce other countries to give up their weapons programs.

We are not so naïve as to believe that problem states will end their proliferation programs if the United States and Russia reduce our nuclear arsenals. But we are confident that progress in this area will reinforce the central role of the NPT and help us build support to sanction or engage states on favorable terms to us. Our collective ability to bring the weight of international pressure against proliferators would be undermined by a lack of effort towards disarmament.

Critics have also said that we are putting the New START treaty ahead of the Nuclear Posture Review. That is not the case. As many of you know, the Obama Administration tasked the NPR, as a first step, to develop a nuclear force structure and posture for use in the negotiations.

While the NPR’s work is still going on, it will inform the positions we take as we negotiate the New START treaty with Russia. The United States’ positions in the treaty negotiations are fully consistent with the nuclear policy strategy and force structure being developed in the NPR. I want to thank STRATCOM for its substantial contributions to this process.

Regardless of the numbers and force structure and strategy identified by the NPR, we need a robust nuclear infrastructure. We need to ensure that there is a safe and effective deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist without nuclear testing. I strongly support the critical role that extended deterrence has played in our national security policy. It must remain a central element of our national security policy.  We must be able to tell our allies, “We’ve got your back.” This is one of the key issues being addressed in the NPR.

The Obama administration and key stakeholders must address the serious need to bolster the human capital and infrastructure necessary to maintain a credible, safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile.  As our nuclear arsenal is reduced to its appropriate level, these capabilities will become even more critical. A loss of the skilled engineers, technicians, planners, and operators, increases the risks and uncertainties we could face in the years to come.

Because of the critical role a viable nuclear arsenal has in our deterrent strategy, I helped write sections of the Defense Authorization bill that are intended to help ensure a sustainable nuclear deterrent as long as we need it. It’s called the Stockpile Management Program. It’s right there in section 4204 of the bill. We were very specific that the program increase the reliability, safety, and security of the stockpile without having to test.

And we built a fence around the program. We said that any changes to the stockpile cannot create new weapons and should further decrease the likelihood of testing. This is going to survive in conference and the next hurdle is to make sure that Stockpile Management is properly funded.

I want to make one last point. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev agreed that missile defenses will not be part of these negotiations, even while recognizing that there is an inherent link between offenses and defenses, something first recognized by the Nixon administration in 1972. The New START Treaty is about offensive arms.

We have agreed to continue to discuss these issues separately with the Russian government. But we have made it clear, our missile defense plans in Europe are aimed at the burgeoning Iranian capability and are not directed at Russia. I’m a strong supporter of missile defense. I know they have the potential to protect against attacks by countries with ballistic missile arsenals, like North Korea and Iran.

So we will pursue programs that are operationally and cost effective. The problem is that if we build systems that don’t address near term threats or are not thoroughly tested, we’ll lose the support of the American people. That’s why, I often say, that I have worked to protect missile defense from its most ardent supporters.

Beyond the New START treaty, there is no step that we could take that would more effectively restore our international standing and nonproliferation leadership than to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. 

We will work closely with the Senate and key stakeholders to ratify the treaty. But here, too, we must construct a new narrative. Simply put, the world has changed, technology has changed and circumstances have changed since 1999. We are better able to detect cheating and ensure confidence in the reliability of the U.S. stockpile without testing.

We realize there is more to do. We will undertake the research and analysis necessary to evaluate the complex military, technical, legal and diplomatic issues. Even as we seek to ratify the treaty, 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. The announcement that Indonesia will ratify the agreement when the United States does is a good sign.

It shows that our efforts are already breaking the deadlock and moving us closer to a world where nuclear tests are a thing of the past.

On another front, we are working to cut off the building blocks needed to acquire 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, it must also constrain the ability to build up.

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, we need to renew the nuclear compact among nations. We do not need to forge a new one. I say renew because the existing compact, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime. It is as vital today as it was when it entered into force in 1970. But we must build and strengthen that foundation to address new challenges.

Nuclear threats can be deterred, but only through international cooperation. This job is too big for the United States or any other nation to go it alone.   There must be reciprocity and cooperation among nations in renewing all three tenets of the NPT. Nonproliferation. Disarmament. And peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

We need to strengthen the underpinnings of the international arms control regime by building both the infrastructure and international will to hold accountable those that violate their obligations and commitments. Getting to zero will require all countries to apply real and immediate consequences for those caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without legitimate cause.  This requires non-nuclear states to bear their full share of the burden.

Having said that, I believe two of the greatest threats to international security are Iran’s continued noncompliance with its United Nations Security Council and IAEA obligations and North Korea’s nuclear program and its continued provocative actions, including its April 5 missile test and its May 25 nuclear test.

The President is determined to address such challenges that undermine the international nonproliferation regime and threaten the peace and security of the world.  These are big challenges we face today. But as President Kennedy said, these challenges were created by man and they can be solved by man and women.

We do not have to live in a world where there is a cascade of countries going nuclear and terrorists getting their hands on the bomb. Stopping this scenario requires that we do what we can on our own as well as join together in a renewed nuclear compact that is based on the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons but proceeds toward that goal in a practical and mutually beneficial manner, that protects and promotes peace and security.

Achieving the goals the President set forth in Prague would surely rank among the greatest diplomatic and technological feats of the Twenty-First Century.

Thank you.



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