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Diplomacy in Action

Interview by Igor Gielow of Folha de Sao Paulo

Rose Gottemoeller
Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security 
Brasilia, Brazil
March 5, 2012


QUESTION: As you are aware, Brazil’s stance as a country, it’s been stated in its National Defense Strategy and by many government officials that the country will not adhere to the Additional Protocols until all the other the nuclear powers- the ones that already have got the bomb- advance on their own disarmament. How do the points made by the Obama administration about disarmament have been regarded here widely here by our diplomats as rhetorical, at this point. Do you have any news or any fresh views on this situation to bring to Brazilian officials here?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well I certainly do, as you may know I was the chief negotiator of the New START treaty, and worked then very hard with our Senate to achieve ratification of the New START Treaty. So I have a particular view of this matter that has to do with the very practical results that the New START Treaty have brought. It’s just experienced its first birthday. It came into force on February 5th, 2011, and now we had its first birthday February 5th, 2012.

In that first year of implementation, we had very successful accomplishments with the Russian Federation in pursuing and continuing to pursue nuclear reductions. It’s very relevant because US and Russia still have over 90% of the nuclear weapons deployed in the world, so we continue to feel that we must work together intensively on these nuclear reductions. So in the first year we have had 18 inspections of the Russian nuclear arsenal, and the Russians have had 18 inspections of our arsenal.

We have exchanged over 2000 notifications of the movement of our weapons systems, so we keep very good track of what they’re doing with their nuclear weapons systems, and they do the same for us. So every time they take a nuclear missile for elimination and destruction they give us a notification and vice versa. You can see by that pace of notification activity that we have had very active communication. I must say, every one of those notifications is not associated with destruction of a weapon, but every time they move a weapon or we move a weapon, we have to tell them about it and they have to tell us.

It’s given us a very good and clean snapshot of what’s going on with the Russian nuclear arsenal, so we know that they are reducing weapons and they know that we are reducing weapons- and in a very concrete way. So I just wanted to convey that to you, that there have been some very practical results, in my view, since the New START Treaty came into force. I’ll certainly be very happy to be talking to my colleagues and counterparts in Brasilia about it.

QUESTION: But you’re certainly aware of all the restrictions and all the –and I don’t want to say suspicions- but all the suspicions of the reservation you will face from officials in terms of the position of the US of trying to put Brazil or inside the Additional Protocol framework, because there’s a real [it’s almost fear] on our part that people are really afraid of being a part of the Additional Protocol will be some sort of [inaudible] both the national sovereignty and [inaudible] of our centrifuges and everything. How do you think you can talk about this and try to push forward your message towards nonproliferation here, and at the same time, do you think that Brazil actually poses any threat as a country in terms of proliferation issues?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well let me make two points about this, and I want to stress this for you. We really respect Brazil’s right to make its own decisions about the right time to adhere to the Additional Protocol. We will be continuing to discuss this while I’m in Brazil along with my colleague, Thomas Countryman, who will be there as well. He’s our Nonproliferation Assistant Secretary.

First of all, we respect Brazil’s right – you’ve got to make your own decisions about when is going to be the right time to adhere to the Additional Protocol. But I’d like to say there are international dangers of nuclear weapons proliferation in our view, it makes sense for the responsible countries to have the highest possible safeguards, and we see the Additional Protocol as really being the global standard, of the highest possible safeguards. So from that perspective, to us it is in Brazil’s interest to consider adherence to the Additional Protocol.

May I make one other comment on this?

QUESTION: Please go ahead.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Yes, I just wanted to say one other point.

You raised concerns about centrifuge programs – Brazil’s centrifuge program and so forth. You know, we had here in the United States many of the same concerns about the Additional Protocol before we completed an intensive process of discussions with the IAEA about implementing the Additional Protocol in the United States. So we understand why Brazil has similar concerns, but we’d be quite ready to work with Brazil and the IAEA to address those concerns. Obviously, it’s going to be up to Brazil to make the decision, but in our view, the Additional Protocol will strengthen your overall nonproliferation efforts.

QUESTION: Do you think that any [inaudible] solution may be in discussions as well? Many people hear solutions from the [inaudible]. They always look at the ancient case as sort of a [inaudible] they’re not planning to explode any bomb here, so they say that, ok, Egypt got special treatment because of their special status. We have a special status, not self speaking, this is their view, we have a special status regarding our reserves, our uranium reserves, which are big. We have all the cycle, the enrichment cycle, completed in the country. We have a special place in the world because we don’t have any specific rivals, regional ones, or international ones. We have a pacifist trend, for more than 100 years. So do you think there is any possibility to make any sort of gesture towards Brazil in terms of bi-lateral negotiation outside the Agency?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well let me just say the view is- and Tom Countryman and I both share this view – we are coming for these consultations as a sign of our interest in having a very close and collegial working relationship with our counterparts in Brazil. I must say Brazil stands out as a positive example for countries in your region, and for developing countries around the world. You’ve made a decision not to pursue nuclear weapons, and therefore gained considerable credibility on nonproliferation issues. So quite frankly, we think of Brazil as an important partner in our nonproliferation efforts, and so I’m looking forward to this upcoming dialogue because it’s going to add fresh energy to that partnership.

QUESTION: I see. Do you carry any message, because Brazil has a recent record of opening the channels with Iranian diplomacy- well, in light of the recent escalation of the events in the Middle East?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well, I would say, as said a moment ago, Brazil stands out as a very positive example for other countries. And one point to really emphasize is that there is a vast difference between Iran and Brazil in that regard. Brazil has already made an informed and responsible decision not to pursue nuclear weapons and it is a strong democracy with a growing economy and a history of peaceful relations with its neighbors. So I think that there is much in the role that Brazil can play as an exemplar of leadership in this nonproliferation area, and that’s really an important point to stress.

QUESTION: And regarding Iran, how do you see the latest developments? There are some people that say there is risk of Israel taking action before the Qom plant being completed. Don’t you think these are going to war, or going to precision attack for instance, are they risking to reinforce the Iranian position or point of having the bomb as deterrence against further aggression? There’s a [inaudible] if you go there, you just reinforce, because you don’t bomb the expertise, you bomb the [facility], but not expertise, so wouldn’t it be quite clear that Iran would look further and more eager to get the bomb after the attack in this fashion? What’s your opinion?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER:  Well first, as you know, President Obama has said we don’t think Israel has made any decision on what they’re going to do. We share with Israel and many other countries around the world a commitment to see Iran live up to its obligations in regard to its nuclear program. That’s why we’re putting unprecedented pressure on the Iranian government. We’ve had good luck in gaining cooperation around the world on strengthening sanctions against Iran.

So we’re really ratcheting up the pressure, and at the same time, making it very clear that all options remain on the table.

But the third point is, we believe that Iran has the opportunity to end the isolation for itself by living up to its international obligations. It should allay the concerns of the international community about its nuclear program, so we really do think that this is an arena where Iran can make some significant decisions that will in the end work to its advantage in terms of restoring its potential place in the community of nations.

QUESTION: I see. So I can kind of rephrase my other question. In a way, don’t you think all this pressure will actually put them in a hurry to complete whatever intentions they have of military use of their program?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER:  Well I don’t really see it that way. It keeps the pressure up. To ensure that first of all, that the pressure is very clear, the steps forward are very clear in terms of what Iran needs to do, and that is to live up to its obligations and answer the questions of the international community regarding its nuclear program. But at the same time to ensure they know that this pressure is for a good reason. That they have in their hands the ability to allay concerns and really, as I said, regain their place in the international community.

QUESTION: I see. And coming back to Brazil, I know it’s sort of a [inaudible] in trying to figure out the future, but these things eventually develop in a way that Iran eventually gets its bomb. Either they don’t have the size of the tech or without the tech, whatever. Do you think that countries outside the Middle East, Brazil for instance, can be tempted to change their minds about not having the bomb, well, because they’ll see, leverage, well, the bomb is leverage in terms of political negotiation.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: We are concerned about the proliferation effects of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, which is why we emphasize so strongly the need to apply this pressure and keep up the diplomatic pace with regard to Iran. At the same time, I think Brazil has already made a very important decision some time ago, not to pursue nuclear weapons, and your country is already proving itself in the international community as a strong democracy. And as I said, a moment ago, your economy is booming, and you have a history of peaceful relations with your neighbors. So your calculus is quite different than that of a region where the potential is felt for a great security threat coming from Iran.

It’s a much different situation for Brazil, and Brazil is already in a position of an international leadership role.

QUESTION: What’s the major message you’re bringing to Brazil, that you want to pass to our authorities here?

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: First and foremost, it is that Brazil is an important partner in our nonproliferation efforts. This is an important time, because your president will soon be coming to the United States and meeting with our president, and we welcome that very much. There are a number of visits and meetings going on – our Deputy Secretary will be also in Brazil next week, Deputy Secretary Burns. So there a number of arenas where we are working to strengthen our joint agenda with Brazil.

But as far as our visit is concerned we really wanted to underscore and emphasize that Brazil is an important partner to the United States in our nonproliferation efforts. We hope that this dialogue, which is one that we have really wanted strengthen and intensify, we hope our upcoming visit will only add impetus to our efforts to work together on nonproliferation issues.

QUESTION: Well thank you very much indeed for your time.

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