An official website of the United States government

Arms Control and International Security: Next Steps in U.S. Arms Control Policy
January 30, 2014

Next Steps in U.S. Arms Control Policy

Remarks by Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance

Stockholm, Sweden
January 17, 2014

Thank you for that kind introduction.

Today, I would like to provide an update on our work on implementing the agenda laid out nearly four years ago by President Obama in Prague, when he committed the United States to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that he reaffirmed in his speech in Berlin this past June.

As President Obama noted in Prague and repeated in Berlin, this will not be easy. It will require persistence and patience, and may not happen in his lifetime. Still, over the last four years we have succeeded in moving closer to this goal.

In 2010, the Administration concluded a Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, which outlines the President’s agenda for reducing nuclear dangers, as well as advancing the broader security interests of the United States and its allies. As the NPR states, the international security environment has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War: the threat of global nuclear war has become remote, but the risk of nuclear attack has increased. The traditional concept of nuclear deterrence — the idea that a country would not initiate a nuclear war for fear of nuclear retaliation — does not apply to terrorists. While our nuclear arsenal has little relevance in deterring this threat, concerted action by all states to uphold their NPT obligations – including those related to disarmament – is important for building a sense of common purpose that helps maintain support from partners around the world to uphold and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Securing sensitive nuclear materials worldwide will also make it harder for terrorists to acquire those materials.

Russia has been a key partner in our efforts to secure or eliminate these materials. For instance, the downblending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) by Russia under the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement has now been completed. The final delivery of the resultant LEU to the United States took place in December. Under this agreement, 500 metric tons of HEU from dismantled Russian weapons has been converted into LEU and delivered to the United States to fuel U.S. commercial nuclear power plants. The HEU that was converted by downblending was enough to produce approximately 20,000 nuclear warheads.

In the United States, an additional 374 metric tons of U.S. HEU has been declared excess to nuclear weapons needs; most of which will be downblended or used as fuel in naval or research reactors. In 2011, the United States and Russia brought into force the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its 2006 and 2010 protocols, which require each side to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium – enough in total for about 17,000 nuclear weapons – and thus permanently remove this material from military programs. Russia has also been an essential partner in the U.S. Global Threat Reduction Initiative efforts to convert research reactors worldwide from HEU to LEU and repatriate those reactors’ HEU to the country of origin. These efforts have now converted or verified the shutdown of over 88 research and test reactors and isotope production facilities, and removed over 5,017 kg of HEU for secure storage, downblending and disposition.

In addition to working on the prevention of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism, we have taken steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. We are not developing new nuclear weapons or pursuing new nuclear missions; we have committed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations; and we have clearly stated that it is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the 68-year record of nonuse of nuclear weapons be extended forever.

In June of 2013, in conjunction with his Berlin speech, President Obama issued new guidance that aligns U.S. nuclear policies to the 21st century security environment. This was the latest concrete step the President has taken to advance his Prague agenda and the long-term goal of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. After a comprehensive review, the President determined that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while safely pursuing up to a one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear weapons from the level established in the New START Treaty.

Let me now address what we believe our next steps should be.

The United States and Russia still possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world, and we have a shared responsibility to continue the process of reducing our nuclear arms. With that in mind, we have a great example in the New START Treaty. The implementation of New START, now in its third year, is going well. When New START is fully implemented, the United States and the Russian Federation will each have no more than 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads – the lowest levels since the 1950s. Our overall nuclear stockpile is 85% below Cold War levels.

Going forward, the United States has made it clear that we are committed to continuing a step-by-step process to further reduce nuclear arsenals.

To this end, we are engaged in a bilateral dialogue with Russia to promote strategic stability and increase transparency on a reciprocal basis. We are hopeful our dialogue will lead to greater reciprocal transparency and negotiation of even further nuclear weapons reductions.

The President also said in Berlin, that we will work with our NATO Allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons in Europe. The NPR underscores the U.S. position that decisions on NATO’s nuclear posture should be made by consensus among Allies. As you may know, NATO has already dramatically reduced its holdings of, and reliance on, nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. Allies made clear in the 2012 Deterrence and Defense Posture Review that NATO is prepared to consider further reducing its requirement for nonstrategic nuclear weapons assigned to the Alliance in the context of reciprocal steps by Russia, taking into account the greater Russian stockpiles of nonstrategic nuclear weapons stationed in the Euro-Atlantic area. Allies have also affirmed their desire to work with Russia on reciprocal transparency steps. While seeking to create the conditions for further nuclear reductions, NATO will continue to ensure that the Alliance’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective, as NATO is committed to remaining a nuclear alliance for as long as nuclear weapons exist.

There are still further initiatives that are part of this Administration’s nuclear agenda. In Berlin, President Obama called on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for use nuclear weapons. A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty or FMCT would codify an end to the production of weapons-grade fissile material needed to create nuclear weapons, cap stockpiles worldwide, and provide the basis for further, deeper, reductions in nuclear arsenals.

Beginning multilateral negotiations on the FMCT is a priority objective for the United States and for the vast majority of states, and we have been working to initiate such negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. An overwhelming majority of nations support the immediate commencement of FMCT negotiations. The United States is consulting with China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, as well as others, including India and Pakistan, to find a way to commence negotiations of an FMCT. And we will, of course, participate in the upcoming Group of Government Experts, which will begin its work this Spring.

In 2009, the five nuclear-weapon states, or “P5,” began to meet regularly for discussions on issues of transparency, mutual confidence, and verification. Since the 2010 NPT Review Conference, these discussions have expanded to address P5 implementation of our commitments under the NPT and the 2010 Review Conference Action Plan. Russia hosted the most recent P5 conference in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2013, where the P5 reviewed progress towards fulfilling the commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and continued discussions on issues related to all three pillars of the NPT: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including confidence-building, transparency, and verification experiences. We are looking forward to continued discussions at a fifth P5 conference in 2014 in Beijing.

In addition to providing a senior level policy forum for discussion and coordination among the P5, this process has spawned a series of discussions among policymakers and government experts on a variety of issues. China is leading a P5 working group on nuclear definitions and terminology. The P5 are discussing approaches to a common format for NPT reporting, and we are also beginning to engage at expert levels on some important verification and transparency issues. As we proceed, we would like the P5 conferences and intersessional meetings to develop further practical transparency measures that build confidence and predictability.

I should add at this point that when discussing areas to broaden and deepen our cooperation and to advance our common interests, it’s necessary to address the question of missile defense. Over the past twenty years, both Democratic and Republican administrations have concluded it is in our national interest to cooperate with Russia on missile defense.

While the United States and Russia continue to have our differences on this issue, the United States remains convinced that missile defense cooperation and transparency between the United States and Russia (and between NATO and Russia) is in the national security interests of all countries involved. For that reason, the United States remains open to missile defense cooperation with Russia. To be clear, U.S. missile defense efforts are focused on defending our homeland as well as our European, Middle Eastern, and Asian allies against ballistic missile threats coming from regional actors. These are threats that are growing, and must be met.

In meeting those threats, it is important to note that U.S. missile defenses are not designed for, or capable of, undermining the Russian or Chinese strategic deterrents. For its part, Russia has been insistent on receiving legally binding guarantees that our missile defenses will not threaten its strategic deterrent. The United States has been clear that we cannot agree to limit our missile defenses, but we believe that cooperation and transparency can provide Russia the visibility and predictability it seeks to confirm that U.S. and NATO missile defenses in Europe do not and will not undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent. In addition to making all of us safer, cooperation on missile defense would send a strong message to proliferators that the United States, NATO, and Russia are working together to counter proliferation. With regard to China, the United States welcomes the opportunity to engage in a more robust dialogue about strategic stability, including missile defense.

As our work together with Russia over the past four years has shown, we can produce significant results that benefit both countries. Our ongoing cooperation in implementing the New START Treaty is a great example of this.

None of this will be easy, but the policies the Administration is pursuing are suited for our security needs and tailored for the global security threats of the 21st century. By maintaining and supporting a safe, secure and effective stockpile — sufficient to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies — at the same time that we pursue responsible verifiable reductions through arms control, we will make this world a safer place.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.