U.S. Statement at the 2023 Session of the Conference on Disarmament
Delivered by Ambassador Bruce Turner
Thank you, Mr. President, for giving me the floor. I congratulate you on your assumption of the first Presidency of the CD for 2023. My team and I look forward to cooperating with you, your delegation, and the other P6 countries.
I equally look forward to working with all of our CD colleagues. I had the pleasure of meeting many of you in New York during the UNGA First Committee last fall and since I arrived in Geneva. I look forward to sitting down with others in the near future. I regret that I could not spend more time with Ambassador Li prior to his departure. I hope our paths will cross again.
Personally, I have dedicated a large part of my diplomatic career to tackling security and disarmament issues, including at the OSCE, NATO, and most recently as the Senior Bureau Official in the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. I am thrilled to be here in Geneva.
The United States is committed to multilateral diplomacy and disarmament, and we believe firmly in the value of this institution. I am not naïve or unrealistic about the challenges facing us – the very importance of which means that addressing them will be difficult. Some challenges are of long standing. Others result from the geopolitical crisis of the last year and a rapidly degraded international security environment.
Like many delegations, we are frustrated with the inability of the CD to make progress on its agenda. The United States, along with other Nuclear-Weapon States, has a special responsibility in keeping this forum and the disarmament machinery alive and moving forward, however haltingly. At the same time, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its bellicose nuclear rhetoric are realities that we cannot ignore. The current environment makes the pursuit of ambitious disarmament agreements challenging at best. We nonetheless must keep trying.
The United States is ready expeditiously to negotiate a new arms control framework with Russia to replace the New START Treaty when it expires in 2026. The New START Treaty continues to make the United States, U.S. allies and partners, and the world safer. However, Russia’s continued suspension of New START inspections undermines the Treaty’s verification regime. We regret Russia’s abrupt and unilateral postponement of our planned November session of the Treaty’s implementation mechanism. We are also disappointed that Russia – as recently as yesterday – has refused to reschedule the session within the timeframe prescribed by the Treaty. The United States is currently assessing the Russian Federation’s compliance with the New START Treaty, per the annual report the State Department is required to submit to the U.S. Congress. I urge the Russian Federation to fully implement its New START Treaty obligations.
In these times of tension, we also need to look for other ways to build trust. The United States will continue to pursue substantive bilateral and multilateral engagement with the PRC on practical steps to reduce strategic risks, including steps that could lay the groundwork for additional discussion of mutual restraints in capabilities and behavior.
We must also continue efforts to advance multilateral disarmament measures, such as by immediately commencing negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The NPT Parties during last year’s Review Conference expressed their disappointment that this body has not yet been able to take this step, noting the substantial and concrete contribution such a treaty would make to a nuclear-free world. We should take this charge seriously and press forward with all creativity and flexibility to begin these negotiations; we have all waited too long for this next crucial step in multilateral arms control.
The United States is also committed to other paths to advance our disarmament objectives. It is incumbent on all Nuclear-Weapon States to behave responsibly and transparently, and to comply with their treaty obligations, explain their policies, and engage in good faith. The United States is ready to take further steps to reduce the risks of use of nuclear weapons. We will continue our engagement in the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification and the Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament initiative, both of which make important contributions to nuclear disarmament.
The CD’s agenda is broad. In addition to the important contributions that we can make here to nuclear disarmament, we also need to move forward on outer space, cyber, and emerging technologies. The Russian Federation’s destructive test of a direct-ascent anti-satellite missile in 2021 clearly demonstrated the importance of developing norms of responsible behavior in space. It is also a fact that space is simply becoming more crowded, and that technological advances can be used for civilian but also military purposes. In our UNGA resolution this past year that called on States to commit not to conduct such tests, we offered an example of a pragmatic, verifiable step that provides a tangible benefit to international security and addresses one of the most urgent threats to space security and sustainability. We can do more, and we intend to work with you in the coming months to identify and explore these opportunities, including at the upcoming Open-Ended Working Group on Reducing Space Threats.
As I noted before, the task before us is a challenging one, perhaps exceedingly so. We now know well what happens when a powerful state – a nuclear-weapon state – does not act in a responsible manner. We cannot turn our eyes away from the horrors perpetrated by Russia on Ukraine’s population, the reckless nuclear rhetoric and saber-rattling, and the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructure and cities across Ukraine. These actions present a threat to world security and arms control, and a challenge to institutions like the CD that aim to advance security through disarmament. This body must rise to that challenge. Just as we applaud disarmament progress that occurs outside these walls – such as the extension of New START – so should every delegation respond when a nuclear-weapon state violates its agreements, betrays its security assurances, and endangers civil nuclear infrastructure. While the CD cannot immediately and alone solve these problems, it also cannot pursue a constructive agenda by pretending that they do not exist.
Finally, Mr. President,
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and its Women, Peace and Security Agenda’s call for the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention is deeply woven and interconnected with our work in the CD. One would think this would not be controversial, but it seems that it is getting harder to have honest conversations about gender in the multilateral space. Last year we saw resistance to even the most basic and already-agreed language on the full and equal participation of women in the CD, and we saw CD member states continue to oppose updating the Rules of Procedure to be gender neutral.
In conclusion, you have my commitment to work towards our shared objectives. I look to you all to join me in these efforts. Our mission is too important for us to do less.
Thank you Mr. President.