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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2003

The Commitment of the United States to Effective Multilateralism

Stephen G. Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control
Remarks to Conference on Disarmament
Geneva, Switzerland
February 13, 2003

It is a great pleasure for me to appear before the Conference on Disarmament for the first time. Let me begin by extending my best wishes to the President, Ambassador Sood, for a productive term of office.

In this, my first speech before this body, I intend to lay out my government's vision of the role of multilateralism in promoting international peace and security.

No one here needs to be reminded that we live in perilous times, confronting dangers that multilateral institutions such as the Conference on Disarmament are uniquely adapted to address. These dangers are not just on the minds of diplomats here in Geneva, and in New York and Vienna. A casual glance at today's headlines demonstrates that these dangers are the great preoccupation of our age. They include, to name just a few, the development and concealment of weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq, nuclear weapons programs in North Korea, terrorism such as we witnessed on September 11, 2001, and perhaps the biggest fear of all, the risk that terrorists may one day soon acquire weapons of mass destruction of their own.

Regrettably, the CD has for six years failed to agree on how to move forward to address the dangers of weapons of mass destruction -- or any other arms control challenges for that matter. It has become fashionable in some circles to criticize the United States for pursuing a policy of what is referred to as "unilateralism." Those who make this charge, of course, counsel my nation to follow instead the path of "multilateralism". Obviously, if they are referring to multilateralism of the kind we have seen here at the CD for the past six years, the United States can be forgiven for wanting to try something different. Indeed, I would suggest that if multilateralism of the type we have witnessed here were to persist within the CD and spread to other multilateral institutions, we would all soon be unilateralists, or at least something other than multilateralists.

On behalf of my government, however, I reject any suggestion that the United States is not committed to multilateral means of achieving policy goals. To the contrary, properly understood, our policies are profoundly multilateralist. If current U.S. policy differs at all from U.S. policy in the past, it is a result of our recognition that, in the post-Cold War era, multilateralism is more important than ever, and that without leadership -- without backbone -- multilateralism is predictably condemned to failure. In a number of recent instances where we thought it necessary, we have chosen to provide the leadership -- the backbone -- required for multilateralism to succeed. Our insistence that multilateralism be effective may not always make us popular, but it hardly makes us "unilateralist."

Take, for instance, the matter of Iraq. For almost 12 years, the Iraqi regime has defied the United Nations Security Council. In 1991, the United Nations deployed weapons inspectors to Iraq, and for years the work of the inspectors was obstructed and the mandate of the Security Council defied. Iraq's work on weapons of mass destruction may have been slowed down, but it never stopped. United Nations sanctions were supposed to prevent this from happening, but over time those sanctions, like the inspectors themselves, increasingly came to be viewed in some quarters as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution. Iraq finally ceased all cooperation with inspectors in December 1998, effectively terminating their mission in Iraq.

This is not a record that any true supporter of multilateralism can point to with pride, and certainly it is not a record that can give comfort to anyone concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It was not until this past November, after increasing pressure initiated by the United States, that the United Nations finally decided to squarely confront Iraq's defiance of the international community. Almost two months of difficult negotiations -- working closely with our Security Council partners -- culminated in the unanimous passage of Resolution 1441, which declared Iraq in material breach of its obligations, strengthened inspectors' authorities, and warned that Iraq should seize its final opportunity to disarm or risk facing "serious consequences."

Five days after Resolution 1441's passage, Iraq accepted the return of inspectors and the terms of the Resolution. It was not a sudden change of heart or a strategic decision to disarm on the part of Saddam Hussein that prompted Iraq to acquiesce. Rather, it was the unified resolve of the Security Council to confront Iraq and threaten the use of force if Iraq continued to defy its responsibilities.

In spite of the Security Council's will and the resumption of inspections, Iraq continues to evade its disarmament obligations. To date, it has failed both key tests laid out in Resolution 1441: to provide a current, accurate and complete declaration of its WMD programs and to cooperate fully and actively with inspectors. Iraq remains and, indeed, is in further material breach of its international obligations.

The United States has stayed the multilateral course over the last three months even as Iraq has attempted to pick and choose the terms of its compliance and throw sand into the collective eyes of the United Nations. We have provided the inspectors intelligence, analysis, personnel, and logistical support. We have urged them to utilize the full range of their authorities so as to improve the chances of verifiable and peaceful Iraqi disarmament. Regrettably, as the inspectors themselves have stated to the Security Council, and I quote, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance -- not even today -- of the disarmament that was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace."

The United States and other like-minded nations were essential in creating the conditions that allowed Iraq a final opportunity to disarm. In its warning of "serious consequences," the Security Council knew precisely that the moment might come to deliver on the threat of force. It was as true in November as it is now that the United States understands the importance of a unified, multilateral approach to Iraq. We want the UN process to work, but in order for it to do so, words must be fully backed by concrete action. We want a peaceful solution in Iraq, but we also recognize that Iraq cannot be allowed to indefinitely flout the will of the Council and thus undermine its credibility. Like our Security Council colleagues, we have the responsibility to face up to the challenges set before us and demonstrate the relevance of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security.

We are well aware of the debate within the Security Council on how to proceed with Iraq. Today we hear many voices arguing that so much progress has been made since last November that we should give the inspections process more time, months or years if necessary. This argument assumes, of course, that the United States can be counted on in the months and years ahead to continue providing the backbone that has finally forced Saddam Hussein to take the United Nations more seriously than he has in years.

The United States appreciates the confidence that others appear to have in our staying power. It is important to remember, however, that the United States is a volunteer in this matter. The United Nations does not usually turn away volunteers. Indeed, the United Nations typically has too few volunteers, not too many -- witness the problems the United Nations encounters whenever it considers setting up a new peacekeeping operation. As a volunteer, our patience is limited, to say nothing of the resources and the willingness of the American people to sustain the current level of commitment to solving what is only one of many serious problems of this nature. It therefore is time for the United Nations to take a stand, to demonstrate its relevance to the international community's collective security.

Having come this far, the United States will not turn back. But we cannot wait much longer to conclude this matter, and when we conclude it, we expect to be in coalition with a large group of like-minded nations. No doubt words will be found to describe those who remain aloof from this coalition, but one term that most assuredly will not be used to describe them is "multilateralist."

Another example of the commitment of the United States to effective multilateralism is the approach we have taken to the problem of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula. The United States considers the efforts of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to develop nuclear weapons, and its announced intention to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), to be a serious challenge to the non-proliferation regime and a threat to regional and international security. The international community speaks in one voice in calling for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We are working closely with our friends and allies, including the ROK (Republic of Korea), Japan, Australia, the EU (European Union), Russia and China, as well as with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), to find a peaceful resolution to this problem. The DPRK must visibly, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

As Secretary of State Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, resolving this situation is going to be a long and difficult process and will take the entire international community working together. We do not want an incomplete solution that seems to solve the problem but in fact just covers it over so it can surface later on. We will also not provide quid pro quos to the DPRK to convince it to live up to its existing obligations.

For this reason, the United States has consistently supported referral of this matter to the United Nations Security Council -- the institution vested with "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security" under Article 24 of the United Nations Charter. Others initially resisted such a referral. They suggested instead that the United States should undertake to solve the problem through a direct dialogue with the DPRK. Surely this is one of the supreme ironies of our times -- the supposedly unilateralist United States seeking to refer a threat to international peace and security to the United Nations Security Council, while others urge that, notwithstanding our reservations, the United States should take it upon itself to solve this problem for the international community.

The premise of those who want the United States to solve this problem unilaterally is that it is primarily our problem and our responsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. A nuclear-armed DPRK threatens the stability of all of Northeast Asia. Given the DPRK's history of marketing the weapons it produces, it also threatens to spread nuclear weapons rapidly to dangerous regimes around the world.

It has been an article of faith within the arms control community for decades that the norms established by the NPT cannot be allowed to unravel, for if they ever do there may be no logical end to the process. North Korea's nuclear weapons program challenges the international community to uphold these norms. We all know that other regimes are watching the international response, waiting to decide whether it will profit them to follow the path pioneered by the DPRK. The international community must make sure these interested observers decide against following that path. In order to ensure that the nonproliferation regime remains strong and the IAEA remains credible, the IAEA Board had to make a determination of non-compliance and report this to the United Nations Security Council. The IAEA Board met yesterday (February 12) in Vienna and lived up to its responsibilities. We are pleased the IAEA Board of Governors took this action.

The commitment of the United States to effective multilateralism can also be seen in our efforts to strengthen implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention over the past year. Our decision to seek reinvigorated leadership for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was not calculated to make my government popular. The expedient course for us would have been to look the other way while the OPCW slowly atrophied. Indeed, many other governments urged us to do precisely that -- including governments that are often more outspoken in their support of arms control than the United States.

We judged the dangers associated with chemical weapons to be so great, however, that we were not prepared to allow polite multilateralism to stand in the way of effective multilateralism. Accordingly, we chose to invest significant political capital in a campaign to revitalize the OPCW, and we are very pleased with the results that have been achieved. The new Director-General, Rogelio Pfirter, has done an outstanding job during his first months in office, and both he and the OPCW have the full support of my government.

As an indication of our faith in the future of the OPCW, Secretary of State Powell decided to significantly upgrade our diplomatic representation by assigning Ambassador Eric Javits to The Hague. This decision was not taken lightly, and it reflects our commitment to support and promote the work of the OPCW, an international organization that is successfully promoting international security by combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction. As we have made clear from the moment this decision was announced, we will appoint a replacement representative to the CD.

When we look at our accomplishments over the past year, I must also highlight the U.S.-Russian Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, also called the Moscow Treaty, which we signed on May 24, 2002. While not strictly speaking a multilateral arms control matter, the Moscow Treaty does reflect the willingness of my government to work with other countries to enhance international security. This treaty puts into legal form the respective commitments of the United States and Russia to reduce by approximately twothirds the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by each side, to 1,700 to 2,200 by the end of 2012.

This major step by the United States and the Russian Federation represents the largest reduction ever in deployed nuclear forces. It reflects our commitment to Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also is a step that many predicted would be impossible if the United States proceeded with plans to terminate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Many warned that the ABM Treaty was the cornerstone of strategic stability, and that if the United States exercised its legal right to withdraw from it, the inevitable consequence would be a new arms race. The conclusion of the Moscow Treaty just five months after President Bush announced his decision to terminate the ABM Treaty proves that such predictions were ill founded.

Not only have we amicably terminated the ABM Treaty, signed the Moscow Treaty, and established a new strategic framework with Russia, but we also have begun the process of deploying missile defenses in cooperation with our traditional allies, as well as Russia. The success of our efforts to date, and the multilateral character of our planning with regard to missile defense, should reassure those who originally questioned our approach to the ABM Treaty.

The United States has also worked hard over the last year to combat the biological weapons threat. The agreed outcome of the Fifth Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference last November demonstrated our commitment to pursue innovative strategies to retard the proliferation of biological and toxin weapons. It also reflected our determination not to accept half-measures that would give a pass to rogue states that have in place robust programs to develop these weapons.

The point that emerges from the cases I have mentioned is that the United States supports multilateralism when it is effective, and in appropriate cases is prepared to provide the leadership required to make multilateralism effective. For the past six years, the Conference on Disarmament has not been an instrument of effective multilateralism. The question before us today is whether it can be made effective.

The United States would like the CD to transform itself into a more effective multilateral forum. We continue to favor the negotiation here of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that effectively and verifiably bans the production of fissile material for use in weapons and advances our national security. So far as we know, no country represented here disagrees with the basic concept of an FMCT. But so far in the CD, that has not been sufficient to commence a negotiation.

The CD operates on the principle of consensus, and for good reason. This principle gives every participant a veto, which helps ensure universal, or near-universal, support for any agreement that might emerge from this forum. However, the evolution of this principle in the CD over the last several years clearly demonstrates how even a good principle can be corrupted in practice. Consensus has in the CD become synonymous with hostage taking and obstruction. It has allowed a few states to make demands that are unrealistic and unobtainable -- to insist on negotiations on subjects that are not ripe for negotiation as a condition for commencing work on subjects where progress might be possible.

The result has been to cast this, the only standing multilateral arm control negotiating body in the world, into such disrepute that responsible governments, including mine, are questioning whether it can retain relevance to the security environment we face today. We must all recognize that the CD as we have known it will not long survive if this malaise continues.

The solution to this problem is obvious: consensus must be preserved, but the states represented here must abandon their tolerance for comprehensive linkages, in which nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We should negotiate on matters that all agree are ripe for negotiation, while informally exploring other issues until CD members can reach some common ground that could lead to further progress on those issues.

Accordingly, let us agree at this session to approve a "clean" resolution establishing FMCT negotiations. By "clean" I mean a resolution unencumbered by linkages to unrelated proposals about which there is no agreement in this body. The practice in the CD of holding vital international security initiatives hostage to win approval for dubious, unpopular or outdated proposals must end if this body is to have a future.

If, however, we remain gridlocked on the agenda items that have in the past been the focus of attention in the CD, we should explore whether consensus exists to take up other items where progress might be possible. Could we not agree, for example, that the dangers posed by the prospect of terrorists getting access to weapons of mass destruction deserve to be addressed seriously? Would it not be possible to agree on restrictions on the export of all nonself-destructing landmines that have caused untold civilian suffering on virtually every continent? Or will ideas like these also fall victim to the hostage taking that has come to characterize work at the CD?

The CD can also contribute to international peace and security by redoubling efforts to ensure compliance with treaties banning weapons of mass destruction once they have entered into force. Too often states seem eager to negotiate such agreements and then lose interest in their implementation. This is understandable: it is easier and more exciting to negotiate new treaties than to work on the tedious details of implementation and compliance. This may be explainable, but it is not acceptable. Too many rogue states have signed such treaties and have covert programs to build these terrible weapons. We call on all parties to treaties banning weapons of mass destruction to honor their commitments.

Focusing on implementation also gives rise to occasions where some parties to a treaty have to call others to task for non-compliance. Few states like to make such accusations, not least because this can lead to the question of imposing penalties for non-compliance. Nevertheless, if multilateral arms control is to have a future, treaty parties must face up to their responsibilities. They must decide that they will not tolerate non-compliance.

One final matter that I cannot avoid mentioning is Iraq's possible assumption of the CD presidency next month. Let me be clear. Iraq's assuming the presidency of the CD is unacceptable to the United States. It should be unacceptable to all supporters of the CD, as it threatens to discredit this institution to a much greater degree than even the past six years of inactivity.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the United States hopes that this will be the year in which the CD reestablishes itself as an effective multilateral institution. We look forward to working with you and the other delegations to achieve this result.


Released on February 14, 2003

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