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Previewing the NPT Review Conference
April 29, 2010

Ellen Tauscher
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

Remarks at the Center for American Progress
Washington, DC
April 29, 2010

As prepared

John (Podesta), thank you for your work and the work of the Center for American Progress. We would not be where we are without your creativity, your ideas and your energy. I am glad that you heard from Senator Casey today. He is a respected voice on these issues and I appreciate working with him.

As everyone knows we have just had quite a run this Spring. Some are even calling it “Nuclear Spring.”

In early April, President Medvedev and President Obama signed the New START Treaty. It will improve our national security and international security by reducing and limiting the United States’ and Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. It will promote strategic stability by ensuring transparency and predictability regarding the United States’ and Russia’s strategic nuclear forces over the life of the Treaty. And it will advance our nuclear nonproliferation agenda.

The Obama Administration issued the Nuclear Posture Review, which set forth a forward-leaning strategy to reduce the roles and numbers of nuclear weapons in the 21st century while ensuring our national security.

And, President Obama hosted 46 world leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit to galvanize the world to take action to prevent vulnerable nuclear material from ending up in the hands of terrorists.

Starting next week, we will take another step to make the United States safer, stronger and more secure at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference.

So today I want to talk about three things. First, this Review Conference is different from past conferences. Second, I want to define what’s possible and what’s not. Finally, I want to reaffirm our commitment to upholding and strengthening the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

As some of you know, our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, [who is a Center for American Progress alumnus], announced last week that Secretary Clinton would lead the United States delegation at the Rev Con. In 1995, the Clinton administration sent Vice President Gore. In 2000, Secretary Albright led the delegation. But in previous years the head of delegation had been a lower ranking official. Secretary Clinton’s role as head of our delegation demonstrates the importance that President Obama places on revitalizing and reinvigorating the nonproliferation regime.

We are going to New York with our eyes wide open.

The nuclear nonproliferation regime is under great stress and is fraying at the seams. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT in 2003 and subsequently announced that it had conducted two nuclear tests.

Iran poses another challenge to the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Under the guise of a purportedly peaceful nuclear program, Iran has violated its IAEA safeguards and Security Council obligations in pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

This cynical path to a nuclear weapon cannot be allowed to serve as a model for others, otherwise it strikes at the very core bargain of the Treaty – in exchange for forswearing the pursuit of nuclear weapons, NPT state parties enjoy the right to the benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The pursuit of that right cannot be used as a convenient cover for acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Finally, some may try to turn the tables on those committed to a balanced and responsible Review Conference by arguing that the United States and the other nuclear weapons states have not done enough on disarmament. That’s not only unfair, but it’s untrue. Our record over the past year exposes the hollowness of any such claims.

There’s an entire alphabet soup of success: New START, NPR, the Nuclear Security Summit, and as the President said in Prague last year we are committed to seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and to negotiating a multilateral, verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

So given these challenges, what can we expect?

A Review Conference is held every five years to make sure that the treaty’s goals are being realized. The NPT constitutes the principal legal barrier to nuclear weapons proliferation. It provides legitimacy to our efforts to rally the international community against the clear cut violations of Iran and North Korea.

But the Review Conference is not a silver bullet or an end in and of itself. It is one of several tools at our disposal to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Other tools include multilateral and unilateral sanctions, extended deterrence, and other mechanisms like United Nations Resolution 1540.

A final document, which can only be reached by consensus of all 189 nations – and yes, that includes Iran – can be valuable. It can energize our efforts, but it cannot change the substance of the Treaty. In our view, whether there is a consensus Final Document should not be the measuring stick to judge the success of the Review Conference. As I said, a Final Document can easily be blocked by the extreme agendas of a few.

There are things we hope to accomplish. First, we want to make it clear that the United States is living up to its obligations under the Treaty. President Obama has jump started arms control as a goal and as a process – everyone in this room has read his speech in Prague last year. Not only is this good for our own security interests, it gives us leverage to ask more of other states to strengthen the Treaty’s nonproliferation obligations at the Review Conference. So we’re not going to shy away from claiming credit from taking these steps to point out that we follow through on our NPT obligations.

Second, we seek to demonstrate broad consensus in support of strengthening the Treaty’s nonproliferation pillar. So we will offer more support for the IAEA to obtain the tools and authorities it needs to carry out its mission.

We will push for universal adherence to the Additional Protocol. The current Director General, Yukiya Amano, and his predecessor, Mohammed El Baradei, have said that this is critical. The IAEA must be able to provide credible assurances that not only declared nuclear material under safeguards is not being diverted for military purposes, but that there are no undeclared fissile material and nuclear weapons activities.

We will push to make sure that there are real consequences for those states that choose not to comply with their nonproliferation obligations.

We will work to prevent states from cynically violating the Treaty and then exercising their withdrawal rights to evade accountability.

Finally, we intend to engage in a vigorous and high-level discussion of these issues at the Review Conference. Some believe that it is critical that we “name names” when discussing noncompliance. That’s a tactical decision, but nobody should be mistaken who we are discussing when we raise compliance concerns.

We’ll also address efforts to implement the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East, which called for a regional zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. Let me underscore that the United States fully supports this Resolution. We we were one of the original three co-sponsors of the Resolution.

But the best chance we have to achieve a WMD free zone in the Middle East is to reach an agreement on a lasting and just peace in the Middle East. And making progress on a Middle East free of WMD will become much more difficult if Iran continues to raise concerns in the region and beyond about the nature of its nuclear program. So the United States recognizes the opportunity for practical and realistic measures to make progress on this difficult issue.

We have devoted considerable thought and diplomatic consultation in recent months to assess if we can move forward on the basis of common areas of agreement. Those consultations are ongoing. It remains our hope that any possible disagreement on this important subject will not block progress on the other important challenges we will face at the Review Conference.

So what does success look like?

A Review Conference that reaffirms the basic bargain at the heart of the Treaty and demonstrates broad support for strengthening nonproliferation measures should be considered success. A draft Final Document or a streamlined action plan that draws the support of all but a few outliers would meet this definition of success.

For those who wish to block consensus or evade accountability for their NPT violations, we can demonstrate that they stand in stark isolation from the rest of the international community. That will be a positive outcome by itself.

The Review Conference should not be viewed as an end point or a destination in and of itself. It is a means to an end. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970 when more than forty states signed onto the Treaty. In the 40 years that have passed, almost 190 states have now become party to this Treaty.

And it’s spurred action. On the disarmament front, the United States and Russia have made significant reductions in our nuclear arsenals.

Since the height of the Cold War, the United States alone has dismantled more than 13,000 nuclear weapons. The NPT has established a norm that has helped persuade Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and South Africa – and others – to cease pursuing nuclear weapons or give them up altogether.

We have taken steps to secure vulnerable fissile material and to place excess fissile material under IAEA safeguards. We will take more steps over the course of the next four years. And we are working with Russia, the IAEA and others to set up fuel banks so that countries can pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including nuclear power, in a cost-effective manner, without the risk of proliferation.

Creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons requires an enormous diplomatic commitment. It’s a global challenge and thus a shared responsibility. It’s not something we can do alone.

That’s why President Obama’s leadership and Secretary Clinton’s attendance and leadership at the Review Conference are critical to keeping the momentum going as we seek to reinvigorate and renew this nuclear compact.

Thank you very much and I’ll take a few questions.