2015 Session of the Conference on Disarmament
U.S. Opening Statement
January 20, 2015
Thank you, Mr. President.
I am pleased to congratulate you on your assumption of the Conference Presidency as we begin the 2015 session. The challenges the CD will confront this year are no less difficult and no less important than those this forum has faced in recent years, and you can count on the support of the United States in your efforts to guide the work of the Conference.
The United States remains ever-ready to work tirelessly with other CD Member States to help overcome the continuing impasse. We have not forgotten that landmark agreements in the fields of arms control and disarmament were concluded in this distinguished chamber. We retain faith in its unique and enduring potential. That faith has helped us in managing the impatience to end the impasse at the CD that is shared by many in the international community. Amidst the accumulating frustration, we believe it essential to accentuate the opportunities for dialogue, while preserving the CD’s core mission as a negotiating body. Indeed, we believe it vital to guard against any temptations to water down the concept of what constitutes a proper Program of Work (PoW), while at the same time rejecting any compulsions to table proposals that will surely fail to gain consensus. Putting forward proposals doomed to failure could be used by those who are skeptical of the CD’s enduring value to undermine this forum.
Against this backdrop, the United States is open to continuing the useful, substantive dialogue that Member States conducted under the “dual-track” approach employed in the 2014 session. We believe that last year’s dual-track approach held promise for identifying issues on the CD agenda that could be ripe for negotiation. We would hope that such discussions would not simply repeat last year’s exchanges, but build on them to identify and seek to broaden areas of agreement.
The United States is also prepared to engage in discussions on ways to improve the working methods of this Conference, if other Members States are also willing to do so. While we do not believe that the current impasse fundamentally has resulted from the CD Rules of Procedures or its working methods, we believe there is some scope for improvements and would have no objection to exploring alternative methods within the parameters of the rule of consensus, which is critical to this body.
While the United States supports and stands prepared to continue to contribute to meaningful dialogue on all issues on the CD agenda, negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) consistent with the Shannon Report and mandate contained therein remains our priority in the CD. An FMCT remains a central component of our nuclear disarmament agenda, and is a goal overwhelmingly endorsed by the international community. In our tireless quest to advance this objective, and the objectives of this Conference, the United States is actively participating in the ongoing work of the Group of Governmental Experts exploring possible elements of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. I would emphasize, however, that this effort is aimed not at bypassing the CD, but at illuminating a path forward on FMCT, a path for the Conference itself to follow. That stands in stark contrast to efforts to conclude agreements that do not enjoy consensus. We cannot support schemes to “hotwire” disarmament obligations though other channels that bypass the CD.
I have mentioned the importance of the 2015 session of the CD. That is because the work we are undertaking can strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is a key foundation for international efforts to prevent the spread, and the use, of nuclear weapons. The NPT now has a nearly 45-year track record of curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, facilitating the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and creating conditions that have helped achieve real and dramatic progress on disarmament. The NPT legally binds nations by their common endeavors in each of these areas. As we approach the ninth NPT Review Conference this spring, we pledge to work together with other NPT Parties to preserve the Treaty and the critical role it plays in our common security, and urge all Parties to focus on areas of common ground and refrain from impractical demands or political agendas that cannot command consensus.
Finally, Mr. President,
Our bilateral arms reductions process with the Russian Federation continues. Those who claim that there has been no progress on nuclear disarmament are ignoring the indisputable fact. The United States and Russia continue to implement the New START Treaty successfully. When we complete implementation of the Treaty’s central limits in 2018, deployed strategic nuclear weapons will be at their lowest levels since the 1950s. To date, the United States has slashed its nuclear arsenal from its Cold War high by 85%. That is indisputable progress in disarmament. We have made clear our readiness to discuss further nuclear reductions with the Russian Federation, but progress requires a willing partner.
Let me be clear: the United States is firmly committed to achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. In that spirit, my delegation looks forward to engaging with you and with all our counterparts in this chamber to make 2015 a year of continued progress on the path of disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control, particularly on an FMCT. That calls for substantively engaging with seriousness and purpose, avoiding pitfalls, rejecting implausible schemes, reinforcing proven structures, and using the valuable time and expertise available to us wisely.