United States Remarks for Conference on Disarmament
Subsidiary Body 2 – Prevention of Nuclear War, including all Related Matters
As Delivered by Senior Advisor Beverly Mather-Marcus
March 17, 2022
Thank you, Ambassador, and let me join our colleagues in congratulating you on assuming the coordinatorship of this body. We greatly appreciate your extensive outreach and coordination to get this Subsidiary Body focused on substance. We look forward to as productive of a conversation as possible and to seeing your language drafts for our report.
The topic “Prevention of Nuclear War” can encompass a wide range of ideas. For our part, we have long championed today’s focus area of strategic risk reduction as a key element of prevention.
We only have to look at the world and its diplomatic environment today – versus three weeks ago – to understand why.
Not even two months after the leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the PRC, and Russia released a joint statement affirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally invaded Ukraine, issued thinly veiled nuclear threats to nations that may stand in his way, and recklessly ordered his country’s nuclear forces be placed on heightened alert status.
This path of escalation increases the risk of miscalculation, and we urge President Putin to de-escalate both his dangerous rhetoric and rash actions regarding Russian nuclear weapons.
In contrast, U.S. nuclear force alert levels have not changed, and the United States postponed a previously scheduled ICBM test in early March to ensure that U.S. actions would not be misunderstood or misconstrued.
The United States will remain vigilant and continue to ensure the effectiveness and credibility of its nuclear forces, but without being needlessly provocative.
As I stated at the top, advancing and implementing strategic risk reduction agreements and arrangements is a priority for the United States.
It is important for Nuclear Weapon States to reduce misperceptions through risk reduction discussions and to demonstrate concrete progress in developing and implementing credible confidence building measures.
We urge the international community to encourage reluctant Nuclear Weapons States to explore such mechanisms.
Taken together, risk reduction, nonproliferation, and disarmament, all aim at the same basic goal of preventing nuclear war.
Risk reduction instruments can also help lay the groundwork for verifiable nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements and have paved the way for such agreements in the past.
The United States has a long history of implementing and complying with bilateral and multilateral agreements and arrangements aimed at reducing the risk of strategic misunderstanding and conflict, such as the 1989 agreement between the United States and the then USSR on notifications of launches of ICBMs and SLBMs.
As we continue to emphasize the importance of bilateral risk reduction measures, we simultaneously recognize the criticality of multilateral dialogue in this area – such as what we are doing in this body.
We encourage all Nuclear Weapon States to engage in constructive dialogue on risk reduction with Non-Nuclear Weapon States, including through forums such as the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament – or CEND – or in joint discussions with the members of the Stockholm Initiative or the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative.
Speaking to CEND specifically, as you all know, it brings together a diverse group of Nuclear-Weapon States and Non-Nuclear-Weapon States, NPT Parties and non-Parties, proponents and opponents of the TPNW.
One of its subgroups is focused on identifying risk reduction measures that could be applied to real-world situations. The goal of these discussions is to create a menu of practical and actionable risk reduction options that could be pursued as ways to prevent future crises from escalating.
The good faith efforts by participants to identify solutions for difficult issues shows the value of multilateral work on this topic.
The United States will do our part and continue to engage in risk reduction mechanisms, as well as work to develop more such opportunities.
It is in all of our interests, so let us see where we might be able to work together to achieve tangible progress on risk reduction measures.
I would like to conclude by looking forward to our future sessions and the importance the United States places on another topic under this agenda item.
More than twenty-five years ago, this body took up a mandate to negotiate an effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
As fulfilling that mandate is a top priority for the United States – and the majority of our colleagues – we are prepared to have a robust discussion on the issue, including what we can do to bring us closer to negotiations.