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U.S. Assistant Secretary Mallory Stewart Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament Plenary Session
June 28, 2022

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance

Mallory Stewart Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament Plenary Session

June 28, 2022

As Delivered

Thank you, Mr. President.

Congratulations on assuming the role of President of the CD. You are taking this leadership role in a challenging and critical time for disarmament. Please allow me to assure you of the full cooperation of the United States and our team here in Geneva.

I understand that today is French Ambassador Hwang’s last plenary. We very much appreciate and thank him for his partnership and work in the CD.

Distinguished delegates, it is an honor to address this body in my inaugural trip to Geneva as the Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

Throughout its history, this body, and its predecessor bodies, have accomplished remarkable things, including the conclusion of negotiations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 – the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime; also, the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972; the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993; the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996; and others.

None of these accomplishments were easy to achieve. They required the combination of vibrant debate among civil society, the expert community, and academia, as well as astute diplomacy.

And although this community should take pride in these accomplishments, we must acknowledge the deteriorating international security environment and commit, as President Biden said, to a new era of “relentless diplomacy.”

Four months into the premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine by Russia’s military forces, Russia continues to bombard cities across Ukraine and commit horrific acts of violence on a daily basis. As a result, European security is challenged more than at any time since World War II. Russia’s use of the nuclear shadow is also concerning. Diplomacy is the only way to end this conflict, but Russia has shown no signs that it is willing to seriously engage in negotiations. We urge Russia to cease its brutal, illegal invasion immediately and completely withdraw its military forces and equipment from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.

Fortunately, as U.S. Under Secretary Jenkins articulated to this body just a few months ago, “multilateral and international institutions, such as the Conference on Disarmament (CD), offer a forum to work together even in the darkest times to address complex global challenges through dialogue and concerted action.”

The discussions within the five subsidiary bodies, which are wrapping up this week, may have begun with the expected national positions, but in several cases turned candid and thought provoking. And while there certainly is a divergence of views, the United States understands and appreciates the collective desire to advance nuclear disarmament goals. We will pursue ambitious, realistic, and practical steps aimed at advancing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, consistent with our NPT commitments, recognizing that developments in the security environment make that goal both more challenging but more urgent.

President John F. Kennedy said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” A Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty remains an essential step toward achieving the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet after more than twenty-five years, that mandate remains unfilled due to, one could argue, a fear to negotiate.

But what is there to fear from a well-negotiated, verifiable ban on producing fissile material for use in nuclear weapons? Is there anyone here who believes that a world with more fissile material available for weapons is a safer one? If the answer is no, then this body must press ahead in this work, and initiate at long last negotiations on an FMCT. To that end, I will reiterate the position that the United States put forward in the Subsidiary Body discussions – that is past time for the CD to establish the Ad Hoc Committee that we agreed to in 1995 to negotiate, a non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. We should stand up such a Committee next year.

Regarding our work on outer space, we must be cognizant about the revolutionary, world changing events that are going on in this domain. From weather forecasting, to navigating, to communicating, space is an essential tool driving prosperity and security for all States. The United States believes that the most practicable, near-term solutions to enhance space stability and security includes developing national security space-related norms of responsible behavior.

On November 15, 2021, the Russian Federation conducted a dangerous and irresponsible anti-satellite missile test which created a cloud of debris that will endanger satellites, other space objects, and human space flight for years to come. Following this reckless test, on April 18th, Vice President Harris announced that the United States commits not to conduct destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing. We believe that the risk of dangerous debris from this type of testing is too serious and the potential impacts to our collective interests in space are so great that countries should not conduct such destructive direct-ascent ASAT missile testing.

We believe that the language of the U.S. commitment is understandable and clear. We have committed to activity that is verifiable and improves the stability of the space environment. We welcome all nations to also recognize that it is in no-one’s interest to conduct or continue to conduct further destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile tests and to make this commitment along with us. We also welcome the discussions occurring here at the CD in Subsidiary Body 2 on outer space. We believe that a comprehensive approach to preventing conflict in outer space must include discussions on norms of responsible behavior and transparency and confidence building measures. That is why we welcome the work being undertaken in the Open Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats, which is being ably chaired by Chile.

Outside the Conference on Disarmament, the United States continues to work with Allies and partners to advance initiatives that strengthen international security, reinforce multilateral institutions, and reduce risks.

This month, for example, the United States was pleased to announce our intent to sign the Irish-led Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA). This declaration promotes practical and realistic measures that States can readily implement to strengthen their implementation of international humanitarian law and to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The declaration will also create a mechanism for militaries from around the world to share good practices and lessons learned regarding the use of EWIPA and civilian protection. We encourage other States to similarly endorse this declaration.

Earlier this year the United States completed the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), in close consultation with interagency partners, outside experts, allies, and international partners. Amid the prevailing security environment, the 2022 NPR represents a comprehensive, balanced approach to U.S. nuclear strategy, policy, posture, and forces. Maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent – and strong and credible extended deterrence commitments – remains a top U.S. priority. As directed by our President, the 2022 NPR also takes steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, and balances U.S. deterrence requirements with necessary approaches to reduce the risk of nuclear war and the global salience of nuclear weapons.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attacks on the U.S., our allies, and partners. The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the U.S. or its allies and partners.

Last year, as an act of good faith, and a demonstration of our commitment to Article VI of the NPT, we publicly released the total number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile. As of September 2020, the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons consisted of 3,750 warheads – an approximate 88 percent reduction since its maximum in 1967. We are at our lowest point since then.

We will continue to emphasize strategic stability, seek to avoid costly arms races, and facilitate risk reduction and arms control arrangements where possible.

So how do we achieve that vision?

The Biden-Harris Administration views arms control and integrated deterrence as mutually reinforcing and overlapping. They represent two complementary elements within a single, holistic strategy for preventing war, avoiding arms races, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

As this group well knows, arms control can take many forms to work in many different contexts.

These include:

  • attribution and accountability measures;
  • transparency and confidence building mechanisms;
  • reliable and credible channels of communication;
  • joint statements;
  • unilateral or reciprocal non-binding commitments, and of course;
  • verifiable international agreements.

These tools have all worked, and we will continue to do our part to reduce risk and engage other countries on developing further measures.

Fortunately, this is already being done through initiatives like Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament, or CEND, and the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament and Verification, or IPNDV.

The CEND dialogue seeks new ways to overcome obstacles to progress on nuclear disarmament by focusing on the real conditions influencing the international security environment that leads to the reliance of some states on nuclear deterrence.

Further, IPNDV provides concrete solutions to some of the key challenges on the path to a future world without nuclear weapons. For the past eight years, the IPNDV has contributed to the development of conceptual and practical understandings necessary to advance nuclear disarmament.

In fact, as we speak, the Partnership is continuing its invaluable work by convening in Brussels for the first in-person tabletop exercise since the pandemic occurred. The participants will conduct a mock transport inspection of nuclear warheads from an active deployment site to long-term storage. They will also simulate an inspection of warheads present at that long-term storage and dismantlement facility which have not previously been verified.

We must also continue to support the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and work to achieve its entry into force. Although there remain significant challenges in reaching this goal, namely securing ratifications from all the remaining Annex 2 States, some of whom have not even signed the Treaty, we must remember that no one country can make entry into force happen on its own.

As we approach the upcoming NPT Review Conference in August, we will aim for a positive, consensus-based outcome.

We need to focus on the issues that unite us all.

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. However, we cannot ignore Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, betraying the security assurances Russia gave to Ukraine when Ukraine joined the NPT. NPT States Parties also need to respond to Russia’s recklessly and irresponsibly brandishing of its

nuclear weapons and spreading disinformation about possible WMD use that undermines efforts to make progress on disarmament.

But, achieving a successful RevCon is a significant and serious priority for the United States.  We will work with any and all parties interested in advancing realistic, achievable objectives, and we will engage constructively on all three of the Treaty’s pillars. We need to have an honest review of the operation of the Treaty, both the challenges to its implementation and the shared peace and prosperity it has fostered.  We should aim for the broadest possible consensus and not allow divisive issues to prevent us from strengthening and maintaining the Treaty.

Distinguished delegates, we stand by our commitment and are ready to work with all countries on risk reduction measures and to enable real progress towards a world less reliant on nuclear weapons.

Thank you.