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Ambassador Kennedy on Arms Control and Disarmament Challenges in 2011
February 16, 2011

Ambassador Kennedy delivers remarks at a public discussion hosted by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. February 16, 2011.

February 16, 2011

Laura E. Kennedy

Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament


U.S. Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention Issues

Geneva Centre for Security Policy Geneva, Switzerland

As prepared for delivery

Thank you Ambassador Tanner for your introduction and for the opportunity to address this esteemed forum today, and thank you to my good friend Ambassador Lauber for serving as chair for today’s program.

As you recall, President Obama’s Prague speech in April 2009 set the stage for what has been widely acclaimed as a visionary agenda for nuclear arms control and disarmament. The “Prague agenda” committed the United States to taking concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons; strengthening the NPT as a basis for cooperation, including by holding violators to account for their violations, and ensuring that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon. In September of 2009 the Security Council Summit recorded these objectives in UNSCR 1887.

By all accounts, 2010 was a watershed year for nuclear arms control. In word and deed, the United States followed through on its commitment to disarmament. The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review concluded last April, fundamentally recalibrated the role of nuclear weapons in our strategic doctrine and changed U.S. declaratory policy on use of nonnuclear weapons. The United State will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations. The release of U.S. stockpile numbers at the time of the NPT Review Conference was a further illustration of our transparency with respect to nuclear armaments. The signature in Prague of the New START Treaty, just a few days after the first anniversary of the Prague speech, and the exchange of U.S. and Russian instruments of ratification on February 5, pave the way for the most significant bilateral reduction in our deployed nuclear forces in nearly two decades.

2010 also saw the NPT Review Conference produce an Action Plan, a first in the treaty’s 40 year history, that reinforces all three pillars of the NPT — disarmament, nonproliferation and peaceful use. The Nuclear Security Summit brought together the largest gathering of world leaders in the United States since the San Francisco Conference of 1945 to counter the growing threat of nuclear terrorism.

This litany of accomplishments should be a source of pride, but not one of complacency as we, the United States, and the international community, cannot afford to rest on our laurels. 2010 may be a tough act to follow, but l will endeavor to provide some perspectives, from the vantage point of Geneva, on the arms control and disarmament challenges that lay ahead for 2011.

The Conference on Disarmament: Taking the Necessary Step

I arrived in Geneva almost a year ago now, basking in the afterglow of Prague in a period full of promise. Our Mission was abuzz with the New START team negotiating the final agreement with our colleagues from the Russian Federation. We were gearing up for the NPT RevCon and collaborating with our P-5 counterparts in Geneva on a joint statement. I spent the month of May in New York at the RevCon, as the U.S. representative to Main Committee I on Disarmament, returning in the fall to the Secretary General’s High Level Meeting on revitalizing the CD and the UNGA First Committee.

And yet here at the Conference on Disarmament, touted as the world’s “sole standing negotiating body” for multilateral disarmament (we all know the refrain), we registered no progress in 2010. Much of the year we spent tinkering with the Program of Work as we have for much of the last 15 years, with the singular exception of the May 2009 breakthrough of CD 1864. Worse yet, we wasted endless hours squabbling over the format of informal discussions rather than engaging on the core of our disarmament agenda. When we finally got down to business in the informal sessions last June, we had useful exchanges that demonstrated the readiness of delegations to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) in particular. However, it also became clear that these were one-off events similar to previous informal discussions and that the mechanism of CD informals – underwritten by the insistence by some of equal treatment for all seven agenda items – had run its course.

The fact is there are priorities. As we remain faithful to Prague’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, we must recognize that the most immediate contribution the CD can make toward that end is to commence negotiation of an FMCT. It is not just the next “logical” step; it is the next necessary step, following the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), toward nuclear disarmament as well as non-proliferation and nuclear security, all of which are integrally linked. We deeply regret that one state continues to impede the international community from embarking on this necessary endeavor and seeks to enlist others in blocking it on the pretext of according “nuclear disarmament” a higher priority. This is regrettable. No less regrettable is the priority some give to impractical and idealistic goals, such as the time-bound elimination of nuclear weapons. In this regard, the call for a Nuclear Weapons Convention is a diversion from real, practical arms control, which we believe must be undertaken step by step and which begins with a negotiation of an FMCT. Worse yet, it distracts from the pursuit of real arms control, which is what we would have if we were to successfully negotiate an FMCT.

Let me clarify – we are not averse to talking about nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances or any of the “core” issues on the CD agenda. Even if we have not hit upon the right formula for space arms control — that is, one that is equitable, effectively verifiable, enhances our national security and that of our allies, and covers the full range of space security concerns (including terrestrially based systems) — we seek to offer and implement voluntary and pragmatic transparency and confidence-building measures that enhance space-flight safety and security. The U.S. is continuing to consult with the European Union on its initiative to develop a comprehensive set of measures to strengthen stability in space and plans to make a decision as to whether we can sign on to a potential “Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities,” including what, if any, modifications would be necessary to support voluntary transparency and confidence building measures in space.

We support a multilayered approach to these challenges—an approach in which diplomacy plays an integral part. But the challenges are real and growing. For example, China is actively developing an array of counter-space capabilities. And they already tested, in 2007, an anti-satellite weapon that successfully destroyed a satellite in space thereby compounding the already serious and growing problem of orbital debris for decades to come. This reality is why we have been seeking to engage China directly on space security on the basis of transparency, reciprocity, and mutual benefit. I note that the recent U.S.-China Summit communiqué “agreed in general on the need to reduce misunderstanding, misperception, and miscalculation.”

We welcomed and fully supported the Canadian CD Presidency’s indicative timetable for Plenary discussion of each of the four core areas. We also recognized that the in-depth Plenary debate on FMCT, in particular, underscored (once again) the readiness of CD members for real negotiations on the objectives, scope and verification of a treaty. What we need to do now is do what Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller characterized as “our homework” on the actual elements or building-blocks of a treaty. For this reason, we fully support the Australian-Japanese side event on FMCT definitions and brought a team of experts from Washington to participate in these technical discussions this week. Focusing on definitions is the obvious and most productive place to start.

There are some who questioned the “status” of this side event, citing procedural arguments against the discussion of an FMCT. We will continue the discussion both in the CD Plenary and on the “margins.” While our strong preference continues to be negotiation of an FMCT within the framework of a CD, we are fully cognizant of “other options” for pursuing this necessary step toward nuclear disarmament, if the CD remains in deadlock. This is not the time or place to speculate on alternatives to the CD, nor am I suggesting that an Ottawa or Oslo process or recourse to the UN General Assembly would constitute viable alternatives, particularly for nuclear disarmament. But the CD must also demonstrate its continued viability, because if it fails to meet this challenge, if it fails to demonstrate its utility as a forum for negotiating arms control agreements, it is in danger of becoming an anachronism

We can look to external fixes for the CD, but above all we must look to ourselves. We welcome the Secretary General’s efforts in tasking his Advisory Board to follow up on the High Level Meeting on revitalizing the CD. It is no secret that we are less convinced than others that another SSOD will fix what ails the multilateral disarmament machinery. Rather, the challenges of ending the stalemate should rest here with us in Geneva.

Biological Weapons Convention: Looking toward the Future

When I was appointed last December as U.S. Special Representative for Biological Weapons Convention Issues, I was honored to undertake this responsibility. This convention is one of Geneva’s landmark disarmament agreements along with the NPT, CWC, and CTBT. 2011 is a critical year for the BWC as we prepare for the 7th Review Conference in December here in Geneva. BWC meetings provide a unique venue bringing together the security, health, scientific, and law enforcement communities to identify and address emerging biological threats. The United States considers the BWC a critical element of international efforts to address the threat posed by biological weapons. As one of the three depositaries of the treaty, we have a deep and long-standing commitment to the norm embodied in the BWC.

Revitalizing the BWC and maximizing its potential to advance international security is a key element of the U.S. National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, rolled out by State Department Under Secretary Tauscher at the November 2009 BWC Annual Meeting. The 7th RevCon is an important opportunity to put the BWC on a trajectory to address the full spectrum of 21st Century biological risks – which include not only the threat of state-level BW programs, but challenges posed by non-state actors empowered by technological advances, and the risk of rapid global spread of infectious disease, driven by international transportation and commerce. In addition to enhancing the effectiveness of the BWC as a norm against biological weapons, we want to use the RevCon to advance the goal of universal adherence. The Obama Administration has been consulting widely within the diplomatic, scientific, academic, inter-governmental and NGO communities to prepare our position for the RevCon and intersessional work thereafter. We would welcome your thoughts in this area as well.

The World Marches on in 2011

The world continues to march on in 2011, with respect to nuclear disarmament (with or without a CD.) With the February 5 entry into force of the New START Treaty, we look forward to the prescribed data exchange and resumption of on-site verification, a crucial process absent in the international stability calculus since the expiration of the START treaty in December 2009. As President Obama stated when he signed the New START Treaty on April 8 last year, once the Treaty enters into force, the United States intends to pursue with Russia further reductions in strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, to include those both deployed and non-deployed. The U.S. Senate Resolution of “advice and consent” calls for the United States to seek to initiate negotiations with Russia within a year of New START’s entry into force. Work is already underway to prepare for a dialogue and then negotiations with Russia on non-strategic nuclear weapons.

We are also working with Russia and all our partners to modernize the conventional arms control regime in Europe to get that vital process back on track.

NPT nuclear-weapons states are continuing to demonstrate our leadership in following through on our commitments in the NPT Action Plan. The P-5 will work together with a conference in Paris this year to follow up on the 2009 London Conference on transparency and verification.

The United States is also preparing the groundwork for asking the Senate to once again take up the CTBT for ratification as well as the protocols to the African and South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaties. We view such treaties as the appropriate mechanism for offering legally-binding “negative security assurances” to states that foreswear nuclear weapons. Looking ahead, we plan, with the parties to the South East Asia and Central Asian nuclear-weapons free zones, to enable eventual U.S. adherence to those treaty protocols.

We are working with partners to expand adherence to the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and to ensure that the IAEA has the necessary resources and political backing to support its critical mission. The United States continues to discuss with the IAEA and other states the Peaceful Uses Initiative, which has already funded over $6 million in projects in areas such as health and food security. And we also continue to confront the challenges of proliferation including noncompliance and nuclear terrorism with our international partners. For example, the United States has worked with Russia to repatriate over 1,500 kg of Russian-origin HEU from research reactors in third countries, half of which has occurred since the Obama Administration took office, and roughly 200 kg of which was returned from five countries just since the Nuclear Security Summit. Through our Megatons to Megawatts program we have already irreversibly disposed of over 412 metric tons of weapon-grade HEU since deliveries began in 1995, representing the equivalent of the material from approximately 16,500 nuclear warheads. This uranium has been providing nearly 10% of the total electricity generated in the United States, illustrating our continuing cooperation with Russia.

It is our fervent hope that a revitalized CD will also march on in step with the progress on nuclear disarmament elsewhere. We believe multilateral disarmament and nonproliferation in concert with a strong and capable United Nations system advances U.S. national security and collective international security. It is an open question whether the CD can capably fulfill its mandate under current circumstances.

I look forward to your questions and comments.