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U.S. Statement by Ambassador Wood at the 2019 Session of the Conference on Disarmament
January 22, 2019

U.S. Statement by Ambassador Robert Wood

Permanent Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament and U.S. Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) Issues
2019 Session of the Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, Monday, January 21, 2019

Thank you Mr. President,

Please allow me to congratulate you on the assumption of the first Conference Presidency of this year.  The CD is in very capable hands during this challenging time, and I want to assure you of the support and cooperation of the United States of America and the Trump Administration and your efforts to guide the work of this forum.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Today, I would like to speak with you about the importance of compliance with arms control obligations and the consequences when states violate arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament agreements and commitments.  As Secretary Pompeo has said, “when treaties are broken, the violators must be confronted, and the treaties must be fixed or discarded. Words should mean something.”

The Conference on Disarmament is historically known for negotiating landmark agreements but arms control is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.  When applied in a verifiable and enforceable manner, arms control helps manage strategic competition among states and contributes to security and stability.

By reducing the risks of miscalculation, arms control can serve the interests of all parties to an agreement.  These benefits, however, are diluted or lost when parties do not comply with their obligations.

Unfortunately, the United States increasingly finds that Russia cannot be trusted to comply with its arms control obligations and that its coercive and malign actions around the globe have increased tensions.  Its actions, policies, and behavior are notthose of a responsible state actor.

We must view the Russian threat in its entirety in order to understand its gravity – from disinformation campaigns; to arms control violations; to attempted annexations of its neighbor’s territory; and to the development of advanced and new types of nuclear delivery systems, such as a nuclear-powered cruise missile and a nuclear-powered and -armed underwater drone that the Russian leader proudly described in his March 1, 2018 address to the Federal Assembly.  Russian strategy and doctrine emphasize the potential to use nuclear-armed, offensive missiles for coercion.  Russia’s destabilizing activity seeks to play spoiler in efforts to achieve and maintain global stability while enabling its contemporary revisionist geopolitical ambitions.

I would like to now turn in detail to a few specific examples:

INF Treaty

Russia has developed, produced, flight-tested, and fielded a ground-launched cruise missile, known as the 9M729 or SSC-8, with a range capability between 500 and 5,500 km, in direct and continuing violation of the INF Treaty.

Russia began the covert development of the SSC-8 probably by the mid-2000’s.

To be clear the SSC-8 represents a flagrant violation of the INF Treaty that Russia intended to keep secret, and that represents a potent and direct threat to Europe and Asia.  The U.S. finding is not based on a misunderstanding of this system or its capabilities.  Russia is fielding an illegal missile in contravention of the main provisions of the INF Treaty and has made no concrete steps to return to compliance.

Since first informing Russia of our concerns about Russia’s INF Treaty compliance in 2013, the United States has worked to induce Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance through a comprehensive approach that included extensive diplomatic efforts.  During that time the United States raised the issue in more than 30 engagements with Russian officials at senior levels, including at the highest levels.

The United States provided detailed information to Russia including information pertaining to the missile and the launcher, including Russia’s internal designator for the mobile launcher chassis and the names of the companies involved in developing and producing the missile and launcher.  We also provided them with detailed information on the missile’s test history, including coordinates of the tests and Russia’s attempts to conceal the nature of the program.  We provided information showing that the violating ground launch cruise missile, or “GLCM,” has a range capability between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Information showing that the violating GLCM is distinct from other missiles including the R-500/SSC-7GLCM and the RS-26 ICBM was also given to Russia.  Finally, we told the Russians that their designator for the system in question is 9M729, and we provided a course of action and framework for the system’s destruction in order for Russia to return to Treaty compliance.

For several years, Russia denied that the missile exists.

In parallel to their myriad denials and obfuscations over many years, Russia completed its research and development work and fielded multiple battalions of the SSC-8.

In 2017, the Trump Administration redoubled U.S. efforts to bring Russia back into compliance with an integrated strategy of diplomatic, economic, and military measures.

In December 2017, Russia finally acknowledged the designator of the missile – the 9M729 – but did this only after the United States disclosed it publically, discrediting Russia’s persistent cover story that the missile does not exist.  Russia has since switched to a new cover story to maintain the façade that there is nothing wrong.  Russia now admits that the missile does exist, but claims that it is Treaty compliant.

This too is false.  The SSC-8 slash 9M729 is a ground-launched cruise missile that has been developed, produced, flight-tested, and fielded with a maximum range between 500 and 5,500 km in direct violation of the INF Treaty.

Russia’s INF Treaty violation presents a direct security threat to the United States and our allies.  It is destabilizing and has a corrosive effect on arms control and disarmament.

That is why President Trump, on October 20, 2018, stated that the United States intended to “terminate” the INF Treaty and why on December 4, 2018, Secretary Pompeo declared Russia’s ongoing violation of the INF Treaty a material breach of the Treaty and that the United States would suspend its obligations under the Treaty effective in 60 days from December 4 unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.

Since the December 4 announcement, Russia has not taken any productive measures to return to compliance, and has responded with the same rhetoric and obfuscations from the past.  Rhetoric and hollow words are not action, and they come amid Russia’s ongoing efforts to field multiple battalions of the SSC-8 as well as leveling threats against the United States and its Allies.

On December 18, Vladimir Putin threatened that if the United States eventually responds to Russia’s violation of the INF Treaty by developing intermediate-range missiles, Russia will “naturally have to respond in kind.”  He said the European nations that agree to host U.S. weapons should understand that “they would expose their territory to the threat of a possible retaliatory strike.”

The truth is that Russia already has such a missile.  It is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads and it is already a threat to many European nations.  The United States is not the only country to come to this conclusion. On December 4, all NATO Allies stated that they have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a missile system which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.  They strongly supported the finding of the United States that Russia is in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.

On January 15, Under Secretary of State Thompson traveled here to Geneva with an interagency delegation.  Our delegation’s main goal was to see if Russia was serious about returning to compliance, and we presented a detailed framework illustrating specific steps Russia must take to do so.  Unfortunately, rather than come to the meeting prepared to work constructively and seriously on their compliance issue, the Russian delegation continued to deny its violation and make false allegations regarding U.S. compliance.  Russia has also used this meeting to try to portray itself publicly as a problem-solver, but Russia’s offer of so-called “transparency measures” is disingenuous and would not resolve Russia’s violation of the Treaty.  A demonstration by Russia cannot possibly address the fact that Russia has previously tested this missile to Treaty-prohibited ranges.

Now it is the time for Russia to take demonstrable steps to return to compliance.  There is only one path forward:  Russia must verifiably destroy all SSC-8 missiles, launchers, and associated equipment in order to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty.  The onus is on Russia to take concrete actions in order to prevent the INF Treaty’s demise.

Inertia will not drive policy in the Trump administration and the United States will not stand idly by when others cheat on international agreements.  Such behavior both erodes these agreements and threatens our national security, and we will respond with the seriousness that this demands.


I would like now to turn to Russian non-compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was negotiated here in the CD.  In March 2018, only months after claiming to have completed destruction of its declared chemical weapons stockpile, Russia used an unscheduled, highly toxic nerve agent in an assassination attempt on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom’s investigation into the assassination attempt concluded that two Russian nationals were responsible for the attack.

The use of this nerve agent in Salisbury further demonstrates that Russia has not met its obligations under the CWC.

As a direct result of the use of this unscheduled military grade nerve agent used in the UK, the United States jointly with Canada and the Netherlands put forward a technical change proposal recommending that such chemicals and a closely related family of toxic chemicals be added to the CWC Annex of chemicals.  On January 14, the OPCW Executive Council agreed by consensus to recommend the proposal to all States Parties.

The United States urges Russia to meet and fulfill all of its CWC obligations.

Furthermore, Russia’s continued support for and defense of the Assad regime’s brutal tactics against its own people, including the use of chemical weapons.  Russia has attempted to undermine every effort responsible nations have taken to address this unacceptable situation.  Russia must be held accountable for enabling the Assad regime to do the same.


Turning to biological weapons, while Russia confirmed the existence of a BW program in 1992 and committed to its destruction, Moscow has failed to document whether the biological weapons items under these programs were destroyed or diverted for peaceful purposes, as required by the Biological Weapons Convention.

Again, as it has done on INF and CWC, Russia has developed false narratives and intensified its spurious attacks against the United States, its allies and its partners to deflect attention from Moscow’s own dubious record.  It has created blatantly false non-compliance accusations against U.S. partners to try to achieve its geopolitical aims.  We must recognize this for what it is and we must stand united in pushing back against these efforts to obfuscate the truth and avoid accountability.

Open Skies and VDOC

Furthermore, Russia’s aggressive actions in Europe and its disregard for basic international principles continue to undermine European security and strain the key pillars of the European conventional arms control architecture.

While Open Skies Treaty flights will resume in 2019 and the vast majority occur without incident, for years the United States and like-minded parties have engaged Russia – only to limited effect thus far – to resolve a number of specific compliance and implementation issues that limit full territorial access over Russia – a fundamental Treaty principle.  In June 2017, the United States declared Russia in violation of the Open Skies Treaty and in September 2017 imposed a number of Treaty-compliant, reversible response measures to encourage Russia’s return to full compliance with its Treaty obligations.  Those efforts will continue, with the support of our allies and partners.

In addition, Russia selectively implements the Vienna Document, and has failed to report required data about its military forces located in the occupied territories of Georgia and Ukraine, and has improperly reported and failed to declare certain types of major armaments and equipment.  Since 2015, Russia has blocked efforts to advance modest updates to the Vienna Document that would enhance transparency on military exercises, including most recently a broadly supported effort at the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 2018.

Most fundamentally concerning is Russia’s continued occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, Ukraine in 2014, as well as its arming, training, leading, and fighting alongside its proxy authorities in eastern Ukraine.  These actions undermine the most basic commitments on refraining from the threat or use of force contained in the Helsinki Final Act and the Stockholm Document, and reaffirmed in the Vienna Document.

Regional Issues

Russian malign activity is perhaps most acutely felt on a regional level.  In the Middle East, while the images of dead and dying children following the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack in April 2018 were a call to action among the world’s civilized nations, for Russia, they only served to reinforce its effort to shield the Assad regime from international accountability.

Russia also remains one of Iran’s strongest defenders.  It has provided Iran with advanced weaponry, such as the S-300 missile defense system.  It consistently defends Iran’s lack of transparency regarding its nuclear weapons program.

Responsible states must be united and resolute in our efforts to stop Russia’s geopolitical revisionist agenda.


Mr. President, I would be remiss if I did not mention Russia’s continuing aggression against your own country.  Russia’s unwarranted attacks on Ukrainian Navy vessels on November 25 have demonstrated yet again Russia’s willingness to violate international norms as it escalates its ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

We call on Russia to immediately return to Ukraine its detained crew and vessels and to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.  The United States rejects Russia’s invasion and attempted annexation of Crimea.  We stand with Ukraine in the Donbas, a region that has suffered so greatly because of Russian aggression, and are committed to diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. Unfortunately, as with other issues I have already outlined, we still await Russia’s constructive engagement.

Broader Russian Activities

Mr. President, Russian violations of arms control agreements and malign activities are not just a bilateral issue for the United States or a regional issue in Europe.  The Russian approach disregards human life and often poses a direct threat to public safety in many countries.  From the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and subsequent death of Dawn Sturgess in the UK, to cyber-attacks that target critical infrastructure and electoral processes – Russian activities have broad effects that go beyond usual national security and foreign policy concerns.  They target the everyday lives of our citizens and attempt to strike at the core of democratic systems.  Responsible states must be united and resolute in our efforts to stop them.

Moving Forward

Mr. President, it is the policy of the United States that all violations of arms control agreements should be challenged and corrected, lest those violators – or other would-be violators – conclude that they may disregard those obligations at will.  This policy makes the world a safer, more secure place, where arms control can help manage strategic competition.

We need arms control that works, and an agreement adhered to only by one side is not a working agreement.  We also need an international body that, as Secretary Pompeo said at the German Marshall Fund on December 4, 2018: “can help facilitate cooperation that bolsters the security and values of the free world.”

Russia must understand that it cannot reap advantages from arms control treaty violations.  The Trump administration has moved quickly to rebuild links amongst our old friends and nurture new partnerships.  We will continue to take a direct approach to confront Russia where it threatens our institutions, our interests, or our allies.

The dire situation we face today on the INF Treaty does not mean the United States is walking away from arms control.  On the contrary, as the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review states, the United States remains committed to arms control efforts that advance U.S., allied, and partner security; are verifiable and enforceable; and include partners that comply responsibly with all obligations and commitments.

One such example is the continued implementation of the New START Treaty by the United States and Russia.  Both countries met the Treaty’s central limits in February 2018, and continue to implement the Treaty’s verification regime, including 18 on-site inspections each year.

At the same time, the United States is prepared to consider arms control opportunities that return parties to compliance, and enhance predictability and transparency.  We will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit and the outcome improves the security of the United States, its allies, and partners.  But we need a willing, reliable partner on the other side of the table.

Thank you.