U.S. Statement to the Conference on Disarmament
Subsidiary Body One on the Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and Nuclear Disarmament
As Delivered by Acting Permanent Representative Auden McKernan
March 15, 2022
Thank you Mr. Coordinator, and thank you for your organization of subsidiary body 1. You have my delegation’s full support. Thank you also to James Revill for his very relevant remarks for today’s session.
It is impossible to discuss our ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament without addressing Russia, a nuclear power and permanent member of the Security Council, carrying out its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. Over the past weekend and even today, President Putin has continued to escalate his attack – hitting hospitals, schools, places of worship and residential buildings, pummeling infrastructure, and killing civilians while Ukrainian forces bravely continue to repel the siege. The death of journalist and U.S. citizen Brent Renaud in Ukraine on Sunday, March 13 was shocking and horrifying, and our hearts go out to his family and his loved ones as we offer our sincere condolences.
As we all know, President Putin made provocative statements on February 24 and 27 about nuclear weapons as his forces invaded Ukraine. This subsidiary body must note that Russia and the United States have long agreed that the actual use of nuclear weapons would be devastating and have devastating consequences for the entire world.
President Putin’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons is the height of irresponsibility. It’s dangerous. It adds to the risk of miscalculation. It needs to be avoided. We’ve assessed these statements, and at this time we see no reason to change our own alert levels.
Russia’s nuclear threats and its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine are outrageous affronts to the objectives of this Conference. They cast a dark shadow over our work, which is especially unfortunate given the number of efforts on the part of the United States to advance its arms control objectives, which we think is also relevant to this subsidiary body.
The United States remains committed to nuclear disarmament despite Russia’s unacceptable and unconscionable invasion. As you all know, in early 2021, we extended the New START Treaty with Russia for the maximum five-year period provided for under the Treaty.
Increasing the transparency of states’ nuclear stockpiles is important to nonproliferation and disarmament efforts and efforts to address all types of nuclear weapons. In October 2021, the United States released the latest round of declassified information about our nuclear stockpile. That information shows we have made substantial progress on disarmament, in line with our objectives under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The U.S. stockpile today has been reduced by 88 percent since the height of the Cold War.
In January 2022, as part of the P5, we released the Joint Leaders’ Statement on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races. We will continue to uphold the principles laid out in this statement and expect the other signatories to do the same. In this regard, we are deeply concerned with President Putin’s unwarranted and dangerous decision to raise alert levels of Russia’s nuclear forces as well as China’s continued nuclear force expansion and arsenal diversification, the largest ever in its history. Statements of good intent mean little if countered by malign actions.
Also included in our recent efforts was the Strategic Stability Dialogue with Russia. Clearly our relationship with Russia, and the world’s relationship, is different today than it was before the invasion of Ukraine. As a result of President Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, we suspended Strategic Stability Dialogue engagements and are not planning another session. At this stage in the war, it is impossible to say when it will be appropriate to resume the Strategic Stability Dialogue. The United States will however, focus on our internal preparation so that we are ready when the times comes. Our objectives for next steps in nuclear arms control have not changed, nor has the expiration date for New START.
Mr. Coordinator, we appreciate the work accomplished by the P5 under French coordination. The United States is looking forward to assuming the role of P5 Chair. In light of Russia’s actions, we are considering next steps and will have further details to share once we assume the role of Chair.
Now in its third multi-year phase, the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification continues its important work examining the challenges and potential solutions involved with future nuclear disarmament verification. The Partners plan to meet in-person this June in Belgium to conduct a three-day tabletop exercise.
The United States supports the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and is committed to working to achieve its entry into force. While we recognize the significant challenges that lie ahead in achieving this goal, we continue to underline the need to bring this treaty into force and continue our strong support for the CTBTO Preparatory Commission and its important work to develop the treaty’s verification regime.
The Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament dialogue, known as CEND, is a diverse and inclusive dialogue of 43 countries. CEND demonstrates the value of an open, constructive dialogue on nuclear disarmament to frame new prospects for collaboration and develop practical recommendations for disarmament.
Even – and especially – in moments of crisis, the nonproliferation regime remains as critical as ever, and the NPT continues to be its cornerstone. Our vision for a positive outcome at the RevCon would have Parties reaffirm their commitment to the NPT, recognize its enduring benefits, and recommit to preserving and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
While the United States will continue these efforts where possible through dialogue and cooperation with willing partners, we cannot go back to business as usual as Russia wages war against Ukraine. There is a clear off-ramp for this conflict – President Putin must end this war, stop the violence, de-escalate, remove Russia’s forces from Ukraine’s territory, and choose diplomacy.
I thank you Mr. Coordinator.