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(As prepared)

Thank you to the Brookings Institution for having me here today.

As you all know, we have just passed the one-year anniversary of Russia’s illegal and unconscionable further invasion of Ukraine. And last week we learned that President Putin has chosen to hold the one remaining bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia hostage to his expansionist goals.  As President Biden recently highlighted, Putin’s decision is a mistake.  Russia’s announced suspension of New START will not deter the United States or its allies and partners from supporting Ukraine.  In fact, Moscow’s decision and its continuing nuclear threats only reinforce how important standing behind Ukraine remains for the United States and the global community.

President Biden has made it clear that “No matter what else is happening in the world, the United States is ready to pursue critical arms control measures.”  The President said this not despite the security threats that exist, but because of them.  Arms control isn’t something you cast aside when tensions are on the rise.  On the contrary, the value of arms control is greatest when conditions are ripe for miscalculation, escalation, and spiraling arms races.

That is why Russia’s announcement last week that it is suspending its participation in New START is so troubling.   We are watching carefully to see what Russia actually does in the wake of President Putin’s announcement, and we are engaging with Russian officials to get a more detailed explanation of their actions.  Most importantly, we will make sure that under these new circumstances we remain postured to defend the United States and our allies.

Given the disinformation that continues to flow from Moscow, it is important to highlight how we arrived at this point.

When this Administration began, we and the Russian Federation extended New START for the full five years allowed under the agreement, because both sides saw that it was clearly in the security interests of our respective countries.  And Russian officials have affirmed their support for New START many times– because like us, they understood that neither country is better off in a world where the two largest nuclear powers no longer engage in a stabilizing form of transparency.  This only underscores what an unfortunate step Putin’s announced suspension is.  His actions threaten not only the viability of New START, but also the future of U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control.  Furthermore, Putin’s desire to promote instability and manipulate nuclear risks is more likely to drive countries to band closer together for their common defense; and it certainly will not compel the United States to back down in its support for Ukraine.

In terms of how we got here, let me outline Russia’s noncompliance with New START, which began long before Putin announced his intention to suspend the treaty:

  • During the pandemic, the United States and Russia mutually paused New START inspection activities. In June of 2022, that understanding lapsed after it became clear that both parties could resume inspections while also keeping our inspectors and the inspected parties safe.
  • In August of 2022, Russia refused to comply with its obligation under New START to facilitate inspection activities on its territory, and Russia has maintained that position since then.
  • Contrary to Russian assertions, there is nothing preventing Russian inspectors from traveling to the United States and conducting inspections.
  • Since the summer of 2022, we have made crystal clear to Russia that we are prepared to honor our obligation to host Russian inspectors. Russian State aircraft have viable air routes to transport inspectors to the United States, and Russian inspectors can also use commercial air travel to reach U.S. territory under the Treaty. We put significant time and effort into engaging Russia, other countries, and private entities to ensure Russia can fully exercise its inspection rights.
  • Just to make sure there is absolutely no confusion on this point, there are no transit visa requirements, overflight restrictions, or financial or other sanctions that prevent Russia from fully exercising its Treaty rights.
  • If Russia has valid concerns about a specific Russian facility subject to inspection activities, there are treaty provisions that can be invoked, but Russia’s blanket denial of inspections at all Russian facilities is not allowed under the treaty.
  • Moving into this past fall and winter, Russia also did not comply with the New START Treaty obligation to convene a session of the treaty implementation body, the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), in accordance with the treaty-mandated timeline.
  • We did have a BCC session set for late November. Let me emphasize here, all the issues Russia identified for discussion were on the agenda, delegation lists were exchanged, and both sides were preparing to get on planes and travel to the meeting.  Unfortunately, Moscow pulled the plug on the meeting at the last minute and has not proposed another time.
  • Russia has continued to assert that it is the United States that is not in compliance with the Treaty. That is not true.
  • The United States remains in full compliance with the New START Treaty, including the treaty’s numerical limits.
  • Russia has alleged concerns with respect to S. conversions of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and heavy bombers. New START provides for inspections of converted items to confirm the results of conversions.  We have mutually identified a confidence-building measure to resolve Russia’s concerns about SLBM conversions, and are prepared to implement it – but it does require a Russian inspection at a relevant U.S. facility, an available option that Russia is currently choosing not to exercise.
  • Again, the U.S. has remained ready to host Russian inspectors at U.S. facilities specifically so that Russia can verify conversions and we have been ready to engage in the BCC to discuss any implementations concerns Russia has under the treaty.
  • Russia’s noncompliance with inspection and BCC provisions is problematic, and President Putin’s suspension of the treaty is not in anyone’s interest, but the good news is that these are readily fixable problems, should Moscow choose to return to the benefits of transparency, stability, and nuclear risk reduction.

Beyond the provisions of the treaty, Russia has now asserted that the security environment today is different than it was when New START was concluded.  There is no arguing that point.  The treaty was signed in 2010 prior to Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and its full-scale invasion in 2022.  It is Russia that launched -without provocation- an invasion of its neighbor.  Far from fostering these unfavorable conditions, the United States actively worked to avoid them, including by holding an extraordinary session of the U.S.-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue in January 2022.

The strong U.S. and international response to Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine does not absolve Russia of its responsibility to fulfill all of its legal obligations under New START. And again no Russian actions related to New START will stop us from supporting Ukraine.

In his suspension announcement, Putin also invoked perceived nuclear threats from U.S. allies and he raised the specter of nuclear testing.  First, the nuclear arsenals of our allies existed in 2010 when we were negotiating New START and in 2021 when we extended the treaty.  Russia understood this and nonetheless recognized the utility of New START for bilateral relations and global stability.  And second, on testing, no other nation, except North Korea, is engaged in threats about nuclear testing, so it seems the only reason Putin brought up the matter was to inject more fear into a pronouncement already intended to frighten.

Overall, Putin’s defense of his decision on New START suspension defies logic and reason.  The United States will continue to aid Ukraine in the face Russia’s efforts to subjugate it.  But that reality does not affect the utility of New START or Russia’s ability to continue participation in the treaty.  Transparency and predictability around strategic nuclear forces is good for bilateral and global stability, period.  Putin was not “forced” to suspend participation.  It was his choice, and he can and should reverse it.

The United States remains ready to work constructively with Russia to fully implement New START; that is because we continue to view nuclear arms control as a means to strengthen U.S., ally, and global security.  And we will continue – and we encourage the international community to join us – in emphasizing for Moscow the risks that this irresponsible decision poses for Russia.

Certainly, nuclear arms control promotes stability that is predicated on predictability and transparency.  But broader arms control measures can also reduce risks and help identify and address destabilizing activities; they can define responsible behavior so that the world can more clearly recognize irresponsible behavior – to either avoid it or to hold accountable those responsible for it.  And finally, by stabilizing regions and domains through transparency and accountability, arms control can prevent unnecessary and costly arms races – and hopefully – eventually – allow for disarmament. Let me give you some examples of what we are working on to help stabilize the global geopolitical environment.

I will start with the People’s Republic of China, the PRC’s rapid nuclear weapons buildup raises questions about the PRC’s intent and policies, and reinforces the importance of pursuing practical measures to reduce nuclear risks.  Additionally, they are developing and modernizing their conventional forces and counterspace capabilities.  While we will continue to maintain our abilities to defend against and deter a range of threats to ourselves, our allies, and partners, we also seek to engage the PRC on risk reduction through improved crisis communication, information sharing, and measures of restraint, is even more important in a period of intensified competition.  And which, again, is deeply in the PRC’s interests as well so that we can avoid misunderstandings, miscalculations, and misperceptions – especially in a world filled with false narratives.

As I mentioned, we are also working with the international community to define what responsible behavior is especially in gray zones and regarding technologies that could have strategic effects. Outer space, for example, is an essential domain driving prosperity and security for all States, whether in weather forecasting, position, navigation and timing, or communication. The U.S. believes that the most practicable, near-term solutions to enhance space stability and security include developing national security space-related norms of responsible behavior.  One of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce threats to our astronauts and our space assets is to reduce the intentional creation of debris.  That’s why we worked in the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a resolution calling on states to commit not to conduct destructive, direct-ascent ASAT missile testing.  Despite Russian and Chinese opposition, 155 States voted yes on this resolution.  Not only is this a demonstration of the international community’s desire that such reckless acts never occur again, but it is also the first of what we hope will be many more norms of responsible behavior to anticipate and address pressing threats to space security.  In January, we submitted to the UN a proposal for new norms of responsible behavior, which we look forward to discussing with countries in the coming months.

We see similar opportunities when it comes to emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence is a transformational, general-purpose technology that has altered our ambitions and insights in positive ways.  From a national security perspective, however, we want to ensure that we and all countries develop and use AI in our militaries in a responsible manner.  Absent a consensus in this area, States may rush to harness AI without a careful or principled approach and could deploy systems with unpredictable consequences.

As Under Secretary Bonnie Jenkins said earlier this month when announcing the U.S. Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy, “we have an obligation to create strong norms of responsible behavior concerning military uses of AI, in a way that keeps in mind that applications of AI by militaries will undoubtedly change in the coming years.”  We believe that having States commit to these norms will help reduce risk, while also effectively harnessing the benefits of such technologies.  We look forward to continuing to work with partners to develop what responsible uses of AI in the military arena look like for the global community.  Beyond AI, the Arms Control Bureau is looking at implications on strategic stability from technologies like quantum computing, geo-engineering, and deepfakes.

A key element in our approach, and indeed of many arms control arrangements, is being able to see and confirm and even demonstrate to the world what is happening regarding covered programs and technologies.  We are constantly trying to improve our ability to collectively detect, deter, and verify.  Our work includes technically-focused, practical efforts, such as the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification, IPNDV, which increases international capacity and awareness of verification issues critical to disarmament.  The Partnership focuses on practical, hands-on activities, like exercises and technical demonstrations, which allow the Partners to test, in realistic scenarios, the verification processes, procedures, techniques, and technologies that we’ve identified over the past six years.  Similarly, the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (or CEND) initiative provides a space in which members can have frank, informal discussions that are integral to advancing the goal of risk reduction, arms control and disarmament.  The new voices and partners that we have heard from in both of these contexts have been crucial to our understanding of different threat perceptions, confidence building mechanisms, and even security challenges.

In my position at the Arms Control Bureau at the U.S. State Department, I am very familiar with the refrain that “now is not the time for arms control.”  The logic behind that refrain is understandable.  Arms control requires partners, and it is hard to think about cooperation when we are in the middle of one of the most significant challenges to European security since World War Two.  It is hard to think about how we sit down with Russian officials while their government persists in its treaty noncompliance and while members of Russia’s forces are committing war crimes against the Ukrainian civilian population.  It can seem like we should focus all our efforts on overcoming challenges to alliance and partnership unity in the face of food, energy, and equipment shortages directly resulting from Russia’s war against Ukraine.  But those thoughts ignore the reality… that if we cannot find ways to manage nuclear risks, then we must all – we will all -face the resulting dangers together – the United States, our allies and partners as well as Russia and all other nations must prevent this.

This is exactly the time that we most need arms control, whether it is in the form of risk reduction, crises communications, stabilization mechanisms such as confidence- and security-building measures, or norm-building and legally-binding agreements.  History has repeatedly shown that when the risk of miscalculation is at its height, that is when the arms control toolkit can be most essential.  The United States will not sit back and allow nuclear instability to metastasize.  Whether through working to preserve New START, improve our defense posture, or prepare the ground for future arms control arrangements, we will continue to do what our President has asked us to do: lead efforts to safeguard this country and the world from nuclear threats.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.

U.S. Department of State

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