U.S. Statement to the Conference on Disarmament
Subsidiary Body Four on Effective International Arrangements to Assure Non-Nuclear Weapon States Against the Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons
As Delivered by Senior Advisor Beverly Mather-Marcus
March 24, 2022
Thank you, Ambassador Ruddyard.
Let me join our colleagues in congratulating you on assuming the Coordinatorship of this Subsidiary Body and thanking you and your team for your efforts.
Thank you also to Dr. Revill for your very useful presentation and discussion questions.
Mr. Coordinator and colleagues, if you will indulge me, I would like to start by honoring U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – who passed away yesterday.
There are many connections we could make between her life, her service, and our work. For, as President Biden said, she was a force.
However, on a personal note, one of the most profound is that she was our first Madame Secretary.
She was vocal about her struggle to be considered an equal in what was undoubtedly a man’s world and passionate in her support for women’s issues. As she famously said, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”
As we grapple with how to bring diverse voices to the disarmament arena, and with how we as a Conference can ensure equal participation, I hope we will all by inspired by those words.
Mr. Coordinator, turning to our discussion today,
As Dr. Revill outlined, negative security assurances serve to provide assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States.
In that context, I must express our continued deep concern regarding the threatening tone of President Putin’s rhetoric towards Ukraine and Europe, including the heightened alert status of Russia’s nuclear forces.
As several colleagues mentioned, Russia and the United States affirmed less than a year ago that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. We re-affirmed that statement in January with our P5 partners, noting that nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences.
The United States stands by that statement and will continue to support dialogue and negotiations to reduce nuclear risks, including through verifiable agreements to limit nuclear weapons. We call on Russia to live up to the clear intent of this statement as well.
The United States would like to be clear about our security and defense policies – including where our policy is under review.
As prescribed in President Biden’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, the United States will seek to take steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, while ensuring our strategic deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective and that our extended deterrence commitments remain strong and credible.
Looking forward, as you all know, and as noted in our National Report to the NPT Review Conference, the United States is undertaking a Nuclear Posture Review.
Without prejudging its outcome, I would like to note that U.S. declaratory policy, including our general NSA, are key issues under review by the Biden-Harris Administration. We hope to have more to say as soon as the Nuclear Posture Review is released.
I would also like to recall that the United States has provided, or is ready to provide, legally binding negative security assurances through the relevant protocols to the five existing nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.
The United States continues to support Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones that are developed in accordance with the 1999 consensus principles and guidelines adopted by the UN Disarmament Commission, including the central principle that such zones be established based on arrangements freely arrived at among all states of the region concerned.
That includes the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. We remain ready to sign the revised protocol and look forward to consulting with ASEAN on next steps.
The United States has also offered “positive security assurances” to Non-Nuclear Weapon States Parties to the NPT to provide or support immediate assistance, in accordance with the UN Charter, to such States if they are the victim of an act of, or an object of a threat of, aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.
In that regard, we have indicated our readiness to consider additional steps that could be taken in accordance with the UN Charter, with a view to addressing the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons.
When discussing security assurances, it is also important to recall the Budapest Memoranda, three political arrangements signed on December 5, 1994 by the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States to provide security assurances by its signatories to Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine in connection with those States’ accession to the NPT as Non-Nuclear Weapon States. China and France subsequently extended similar assurances to those countries.
Among the commitments, many of which were affirmations of existing obligations, are those to:
- “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine”;
- “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Belarus, Kazakhstan, or Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations”;
- “refrain from economic coercion” against Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine;
- “Seek immediate UN Security Council action to provide assistance to Belarus, Kazakhstan, or Ukraine” if one is the victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used;
- not use nuclear weapons against Belarus, Kazakhstan, or Ukraine; and
- consult with other signatories if “a situation arises which raises a question concerning these commitments.”
The United States continues to uphold its commitments under the Budapest Memorandum. Russia has not.
Russia’s contravention of the Budapest Memorandum is not surprising in light of its parallel and flagrant violation of the UN Charter in the form of its premeditated, inhumane, unlawful, and unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine.
We call on Russia to cease dishonoring these commitments, as well as to adhere to its negative security assurance to non-nuclear-weapons States Parties to the NPT, which is noted in UNSCR 984 and contained in UN Document S/1995/261.
We also welcome the UN General Assembly vote about 30 minutes ago that overwhelmingly passed the Resolution on the Humanitarian Consequences of the Aggression on Ukraine.
Turning to the role of nuclear weapons and our doctrine, we understand that the concept of nuclear deterrence is a hotly debated one in this Conference. The United States’ views on this topic will be fully addressed in the upcoming National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review.
In the meantime, we want to be sure that our long-standing policy is clearly understood – particularly in the environment of false information and propaganda that we unfortunately find ourselves in.
U.S. policy is to maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for the United States and strong and credible extended deterrence for our Allies and partners, consistent with our current and future security requirements.
The United States has long maintained a high threshold for possible nuclear employment, limiting use to extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States, our Allies, and partners.
The initiation and conduct of nuclear operations would adhere to the law of armed conflict and the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Additionally, the United States does not rely on nuclear deterrence alone to address nuclear dangers; nuclear arms control, nuclear risk reduction, nuclear non-proliferation, and nuclear counterterrorism and counterproliferation also play enduring and irreplaceable roles in our National Security Strategy. We see deterrence, arms control, counterterrorism and nonproliferation efforts as mutually-reinforcing.
On AUKUS, the distinguished Ambassador from China knows perfectly well that naval nuclear propulsion is not covered by the NPT.
In taking this endeavor forward, AUKUS partners will fully comply with our respective non-proliferation obligations and commitments.
Further, we will do so in a way that reflects our longstanding leadership in global non-proliferation and rigorous verification standards, in consultation with the IAEA.
Turning back to issues that do apply to the NPT, we are glad the States Parties agreed to set the August dates for the Review Conference and are eager to turn to the hard work of making it a success.
Our vision for a positive outcome would be for all parties to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT, recognize its enduring benefits, and recommit to preserving and strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
To that end, we recognize the importance of NSAs and look forward to frank discussions on how to further advance them.
Like others, we are concerned that Russia’s war against Ukraine will cast a shadow over the Review Conference.
But situations like this underscore the importance of shoring up the nuclear nonproliferation regime, which provides part of the foundation of the rules-based international system.
Thank you, Mr. Coordinator.