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Strengthening the International Framework to Prevent the Spread and Use of Nuclear Weapons
February 16, 2011

Remarks by

Ellen Tauscher

Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

Third Nuclear Deterrence Summit

Washington, DC

February 16, 2011

Good morning. Thank you very much Ed. This is now my third time speaking at your conference, first as a Member of Congress and now as Under Secretary of State.

I want to thank all of you for your hard work and your commitment to these issues that are often so complicated and arcane, yet tremendously important. And I want to thank all of you for your patriotism.

I also want to tell everyone that I am honored to share the podium with my good friend, Ambassador Kislyak. For the last 18 months that I have been at the State Department, we have spent a lot of time together.

Obviously, we sit down as often as we can because there are a lot of important issues to discuss. Just as importantly, Sergey has the best chef in Washington. He is a great host and he is a very good friend.

You know me and know my background as a Member of Congress from California’s 10th Congressional District where I served for 13 years. I represented the smartest people in the world – and not just because they elected me seven times.

Many of my constituents, not surprisingly, worked on some of our toughest national security and nonproliferation issues at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia California.

What some of you might know, or might not know, is that last summer I was diagnosed with cancer. I’m not alone here. Cancer is a great equalizer because it affects so many people. Still, I was shocked to have that kind of diagnosis.

But the shock did not last long because I could not let it. I had to act. My next thought was I can beat this. And with the wonderful support of so many loved ones and friends, including Secretary Clinton and many of you who are here today, I did.

I have tried to bring that same can-do spirit to my work at the State Department. All of us who work on arms control and nonproliferation must share that attitude, that can-do attitude, because the consequences of accepting the status quo are too severe.

Both Secretary Clinton and President Obama know that. Just four months into his presidency, President Obama said that we can make the world safer from the threat of nuclear war and move toward a world without nuclear weapons. And, in Prague, he offered a path forward to do that.

This past year we showed that we can reduce the role and number of nuclear weapons and enhance our security. We ratified the New START Treaty with Russia, restoring stability, predictability and transparency to the strategic forces of both sides.

We succeeded in conducting a new Nuclear Posture Review. We helped reach a consensus action plan at the NPT Review Conference. We sponsored the first-ever Nuclear Security Summit. And we established an international fuel bank. These steps show that we can halt proliferation, we can prevent acts of nuclear terrorism, and we can promote safe civil nuclear power.

And at the NPT Review Conference, Secretary Clinton made the number of nuclear weapons in our own arsenal public for the first time, sending a very clear signal to the rest of the world that security and transparency can go together. I urge other countries to join us in this effort.

Despite our goals, despite the steps we have taken significant challenges remain. North Korea and Iran continue to undermine the treaties and institutions that underpin the global nonproliferation regime.

North Korea continues its old pattern of behavior. While we remain open to resumed Six Party Talks if North Korea demonstrates an appropriate seriousness and sincerity on regional stability and denuclearization, we will take appropriate steps to counter North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and long range missiles, which pose a direct threat to the United States.

With respect to Iran, it has not been able to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful. While the door remains open to negotiations with Iran, the United States will not settle for empty diplomacy and talks meant only to delay and avoid responsibilities.

As I said, we had significant accomplishments last year and we do not plan on letting up. Going forward, the Obama Administration will continue to work to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons worldwide while ensuring that our nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, and effective so long as nuclear weapons exist. We can do both reductions and modernization of the complex.

Senate approval of the New START Treaty showed that the consensus for that approach – and I will admit that it is a fragile consensus – is intact. Investing in the science, people, and facilities supporting our stockpile allows us to safely reduce both deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons.

We can seek deeper nuclear reductions and we are committed to seeking deeper nuclear reductions with Russia, including in strategic, non-strategic, and non-deployed weapons. We can ban nuclear testing and we can prohibit the production of more fissile material for nuclear weapons. There has been enough nuclear testing in the past and the world has all the fissile material for weapons that it needs.

Let me say a few words about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. I can’t say when we will ask for the Senate’s advice and consent to the CTBT. To get there, we have a lot of work to do because nuclear testing is not a front-burner issue in the minds of most Americans. One reason is because we have not tested since 1992. To understand the gap in public awareness, just think that in 1961 thousands of housewives and mothers symbolically walked off their jobs to protest the arms race and nuclear testing. That same public level of concern about nuclear testing does not exist today, but it certainly does not mean that the issue is any less important.

It is up to us to educate the public and the Senate on the significant advances in both stockpile stewardship and our ability to monitor explosions. You will see us doing that in the coming months. The science, the ability to detect cheating and the absence of the need to test, make a compelling case for the CTBT. Ratifying the CTBT would bolster our credibility as we work to stop others from developing nuclear weapons and testing them.

As for the FMCT, everyone knows that there is one unwilling partner. We are going to keep working to persuade Pakistan that it has no reason to fear the start of talks. We believe any FMCT negotiations will be a multi-year process and the consensus-based rules of the Conference on Disarmament ensure that every state has every opportunity to protect its sovereign national interests.

Finally, we can protect ourselves and our allies, as well as cooperate with Russia on the issue of missile defense. We saw remarkable progress last year in Lisbon when the Alliance agreed for the first time to develop the capability for full coverage of all European members’ territories and populations against ballistic missile threats. NATO also agreed with Russia to renew theater missile defense cooperation as well as work on a framework to further expand cooperation.

The Obama Administration will work to both implement the European Phased Adaptive Approach and seek cooperation on missile defense with Russia. Across the Administration, we are engaging our Russian counterparts. It is no secret that we believe that ballistic missile defense cooperation offers concrete benefits to the United States, our NATO allies, and Russia that will strengthen strategic stability over the long-term.

Last year, the Obama Administration worked to implement the various concrete steps that the President put forward in his speech in Prague. Each step was designed to enhance our national security, stabilize our relationship with Russia, and reaffirm the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

We have set in motion policies so that we are no longer clinging to excessive nuclear weapons. We have set in motion policies that reduce mistrust and the risk of miscalculation. This year, we plan to follow up on what we have accomplished and to move forward on the unfinished work that President Obama set forth in Prague.

It’s a pleasure to be here again today. I know that Ambassador Kislyak is going to be an enjoyable speaker. Thank you very much.