Obama embraces vision of a world without nuclear weapons
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Global Zero Summit
February 3, 2010
Thank you. It’s an honor to be here in Paris at the Global Zero Summit and see so many old friends. Many of you have known and worked with me when I served as a member of Congress from California and it’s an honor to be here today representing the Obama administration.
I want to thank Richard Burt for this invitation and I want to thank all of those who are here today that I have worked with in the past. Thank you for your patriotism and your hard work.
I want to recognize the Student Movement and its leaders who are a part of this conference. Thank you for your passion and engagement.
I know Global Zero has set itself an ambitious goal of wanting to eliminate nuclear weapons during the next 20 years.
The goal is admirable, and I thank you for the time and energy each and every one of you is putting into this effort.
The nuclear arms race that characterized the Cold War cast a shadow over the lives of people everywhere—especially those living in Europe and the United States. But today there is universal agreement that, as Secretary Clinton said last week in this great city, “People everywhere have the right to live free from the fear of nuclear destruction.”
And President Obama set forth an ambitious agenda in his speech in Prague last year. The president has embraced the vision of John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan of calling for a world without nuclear weapons.
Those are not just abstract words for him. This issue animates the president, it’s not one of those issues that an aide had to tell him about. He has put his political capital and muscle behind that vision.
But he acknowledged then, just as he did in his statement to you yesterday, that it would not be easy and that it will take a long time. It will likely will exceed twenty years and that it might not happen in his lifetime.
Nuclear disarmament is not the Holy Grail. It’s only worth pursuing in so far as it increases our national security.
I believe that the journey on the road to zero is perhaps more important – than the goal itself.
It’s those concrete steps that we take that will enhance the national security of the United States and make the world a more stable place.
So just don’t look at what we say, look at what we’re going to do over the next few months.
We’re at the end game of negotiating a new arms reduction treaty with Russia. Nobody said this was going to be easy and as someone who has negotiated a few deals in my day, this is one that isn’t very contentious or complicated.
Both sides are working well together and if the measure of a good deal is that both sides are willing to do another deal, then we’re in good shape.
As President Obama said in his statement to you the other day, “this is just a start.”
On March 1, the Obama administration will release its Nuclear Posture Review, which will reduce role and number of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. For the first time, there has been significant State Department participation in the Nuclear Posture Review. We have made sure to fully address all matters relating to our nuclear posture. We also have spent a significant amount of time consulting our allies because it is our goal to strengthen their security as well.
At April’s Nuclear Security Summit, the President will bring 44 nations together to advance his goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.
In May, we will strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime at the Review Conference and work with allies and partners to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of every nation are enforced.
We are also working to start negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty to halt fissile material production, so that we don’t add to global stockpiles of highly enriched uranium or weapons grade plutonium.
And, when we’re ready, we will ask the United States Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Looking back, the United States and, for that matter, Russia, have not gotten enough credit for the steps we have taken to disarm. They have been substantial even though we all know we have a long way to go.
There’s also reason to look up.
More than 180 countries have foresworn nuclear weapons. More countries have given up or been denied nuclear weapons programs than those that have acquired weapons over the past 40 years.
That’s why we cannot let our guard down now. My friends, George Schultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, who some call the Four Horsemen or the Four Wise Men have compared the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons to the summit of a very tall mountain.
It’s hard to see that peak from where we stand today, and so we first must make forward progress that allows us to see that goal as attainable and realistic. We have a long journey ahead of us and it’s a journey that won’t be easy, but with your help and your energy I believe that we can get there.
Thank you very much.