Good afternoon, it is an honor to speak to you today.
When I last spoke to a NATO audience in September, I laid out the Biden-Harris Administration’s vision for the future of arms control and the pressing challenges ahead in our tense and competitive security environment. In facing these challenges, the United States is committed to re-engaging the international community, re-emphasizing the importance of effective arms control and risk reduction measures, maintaining our commitments to nuclear safety and security, and ensuring that U.S. nuclear guarantees are strong and credible.
Over the past two months, the United States has been actively moving forward and showing progress on this broad agenda.
Our Strategic Stability Dialogue meeting with Russia on September 30 was another constructive engagement for both sides and built on our meeting in July. The two delegations had a substantive conversation, and we were able to announce that we are forming two expert working groups: a Working Group on Principles and Objectives for Future Arms Control, and a Working Group on Capabilities and Actions with Strategic Effects. Our goals are to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures, but also to maintain sustained dialogues on emerging threats to reduce risks and the potential for misunderstandings and miscalculations. The working groups will allow us to pursue those discussions at a more technical level. Experts from each delegation will be able to dig deeper into the details on a wide range of issues of importance to both countries.
These expert exchanges will then enrich the discussions we have at the Plenary-level. The delegations agreed that the working groups would commence their meetings, followed by a third plenary meeting of the Strategic Stability Dialogue.
The Strategic Stability Dialogue is but one channel through which we will pursue these objectives. The United States and Russia also recently concluded the 19th session of the New START Bilateral Consultative Commission, which convened for the first time since the fall of 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to work with the Russian Federation to resume New START inspections when public health conditions permit it.
As these efforts move forward, I would like to remind you of several key concepts that guide U.S. efforts for arms control with Russia. First, we will look to capture new kinds of intercontinental-range nuclear delivery systems not currently limited by the New START Treaty. Second, we will seek to address all nuclear warheads, including non-strategic nuclear weapons and non-deployed warheads. Third, we will seek to retain limits on Russian intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments after New START expires in 2026. We have approached this dialogue with an open mind and look forward to continued serious and substantive discussions. We have also made clear that legally binding measures would require effective verification regimes and that compliance is key to maintaining strategic stability.
Despite our differences, the United States and Russia both recognize that it is our mutual responsibility to come together and to improve stability where we can, and that is what we are doing with the Strategic Stability Dialogue and Bilateral Consultative Commission.
However, while I am encouraged to share our steps forward with Russia, we still lack forward momentum with the People’s Republic of China.
Historically, Beijing has rejected substantive engagement. We have regularly raised strategic stability with the PRC and highlighted the importance of risk reduction.
Previously, PRC officials have sidestepped a meaningful dialogue on nuclear weapons by pointing to the larger U.S. nuclear arsenal. In fact, the United States has steadily reduced the size of our arsenal over the past several decades. Recently, I joined NNSA Administrator Hruby to release our current stockpile data and annual dismantlement totals. The U.S. stockpile in 2020 totaled 3,750 warheads, which shows we have reduced our nuclear weapons stockpile by approximately 88 percent from its maximum in 1967. In addition, approximately 2,000 warheads are retired and awaiting dismantlement.
In contrast, Beijing is substantially expanding its nuclear arsenal, keeps its programs shrouded in secrecy, and is unwilling to provide details on its plans to the international community. This nuclear buildup reinforces the importance of pursuing practical measures with the PRC to reduce nuclear risk.
Relatedly, President Biden has directed a Nuclear Posture Review, or ‘NPR,’ to examine the role of nuclear weapons in our overall national security and defense strategies. As stated in President Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, the NPR will look at ways to reduce the roles of U.S. nuclear weapons, while ensuring our strategic deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective. We will also ensure that our extended deterrence commitments to our allies remain strong and credible. The United States is committed to leading global progress toward nuclear disarmament and improving the international security environment. And we call on Russia and the PRC to also commit to transparency and provide the same data on their stockpiles as we have released.
These issues are greater than just our bilateral efforts with Moscow and Beijing. I want to reiterate that the Biden-Harris Administration strongly believes that multilateralism and international cooperation are essential tools to counter the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other WMDs. We believe the NPT Treaty remains the cornerstone of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. The upcoming tenth Review Conference of the NPT represents an opportunity for us to reflect on and celebrate the first 50 years of the Treaty while working together to preserve it for the next 50 years and beyond. We look forward to working with all NPT Parties at the RevCon to put aside our differences and find consensus ways to strengthen and maintain the Treaty.
To accomplish this goal, the United States will emphasize the need to take a practical approach to achieving progress on nuclear disarmament. This includes having a robust discussion on risk reduction, and by such initiatives as Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament and various efforts on nuclear disarmament verification. On this topic, I want to stress our desire to work with our allies and close partners to make progress on nuclear disarmament. In particular, we welcome the Stockholm Initiative and see it as an important disarmament effort. We look forward to engaging earnestly on the 22 “Stepping Stones” proposals with the Stockholm Initiative countries in a way that is grounded in a realistic assessment of the prevailing security environment.
We also seek to reinforce the authority of the IAEA in its NPT verification role, including by seeking the universalization of the Additional Protocol and its recognition as the de facto safeguards standard. In addition, we are working closely with NPT Parties to further expand access to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy through innovative assistance mechanisms to benefit the least developed countries. We will continue to consult closely with Allies before and throughout the Conference.
Before closing, I also welcome NATO’s continued work on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies or “EDT.” It is critical that the Alliance understand the potential opportunities and implications of EDT on its deterrence and defense posture, maintain its technological edge, and ensure interoperability across the Alliance. A foundational technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), rightly remains at the forefront of the Alliance’s EDT work. AI will have implications on our weapons system capabilities, command and control, and the potential for our adversaries to spread disinformation via, for example, deepfakes, to influence our decision-making. We applaud the recent NATO Defense Ministerial decision to adopt an Artificial Intelligence Strategy that provides a foundation for the development and responsible use of AI and seeks to accelerate AI adoption, while protecting our AI technologies and safeguarding against threats from adversarial use of AI.
Again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. The issues we face regarding the future of nuclear arms control and emerging technologies, while daunting, must be solved, and it is venues like these, where Allies and partners can come together to share ideas, that help build a bridge to a safe, prosperous, and secure future. I look forward to continuing the conversation throughout this conference.