U.S. Implementation of Article VI and the Future of Nuclear DisarmamentAmbassador Jackie W. Sanders, Special Representative of the President for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Statement to the 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons
New York, New York
May 20, 2005
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to address Main Committee I to present U.S. views on Article VI of the Treaty. The United States values these opportunities to volunteer information on its policies, activities, and achievements contributing to the universal implementation of all substantive articles of the Treaty, including Article VI. The United States is fully committed to the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], and believes that all states must comply with the obligations of the Treaty. The United States takes all of its treaty obligations seriously, including those in Article VI, and is in full compliance with this article. As Article VI obligations extend to all States Parties, nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon alike, we look forward to learning about how others are advancing the goals of Article VI.
Mr. Chairman, the United States recognizes its Article VI commitments. We note, too, that the pace and nature of progress toward nuclear disarmament depends on the state of the international security environment. To that end, perhaps some discussion of the broader context is in order.
A Changed World
Mr. Chairman, the nuclear arms race referred to in Article VI is over. The United States and Russia have altered their fundamental relationship, and the drawdown of the nuclear weapons built up during the Cold War has been under way for almost two decades. The prospect of a global nuclear war that rightfully preoccupied the international community thirty-five years ago is at its lowest ebb in the history of the nuclear age.
The easing of global tension and strengthening of trust has allowed the United States to undertake systematic, progressive, and effective measures consistent with Article VI. We have taken these actions unilaterally, bilaterally with the Russian Federation, and multilaterally within NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]. Unfortunately, in the face of this dramatic reduction of reliance on nuclear weapons, new proliferation challenges to international peace and security threaten us all. I speak in particular of the growing threat of terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction, the alarming examples of certain States Parties violating their solemn nonproliferation commitments by seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or the means for their production, and revelations of non-state actor involvement in the illegal trafficking of sensitive nuclear technology.
Mr. Chairman, since September 11, 2001, these dangers, more than any other, imperil international peace and security and the continued viability of the NPT. Endorsement by all parties of strong international measures to confront these proliferation threats must be the primary objective of the 2005 Review Conference.
The U.S. Article VI Record
Mr. Chairman, the United States is committed to implementing NPT Article VI and by any measure, United States actions over the past 20 years have established an enviable record of Article VI compliance. Consider these significant, Article VI-related accomplishments:
Nuclear Weapon Reductions
Nuclear Delivery System Reductions
Controlling Fissile Material
Cooperative Threat Reduction
Targeting and Alert Status
The United States no longer targets any country with nuclear weapons on a day-to-day basis. Mr. Chairman, let me repeat: the United States no longer targets any country with nuclear weapons on a day-to-day basis. Strategic bombers are no longer on alert. Dual-capable aircraft no longer operate on a high-alert basis, and their readiness requirements now are measured in weeks and months, rather than minutes. These measures would have been unheard of during the Cold War. Significant steps such as these contribute to Article VI goals and to global stability, and more generally to confidence-building.
Broadening Deterrence and Shifting Its Emphasis
Mr. Chairman, the points that I have just described in detail by themselves represent undeniable Article VI progress. Notwithstanding, beyond numerical reductions of weapons and delivery systems, which are critical to Article VI objectives, the United States has set in motion an entirely new way of looking at the role of nuclear weapons in our defense strategy.
I speak, Mr. Chairman, of the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, of 2001. The United States has undertaken reviews of this sort in the past, but the 2001 NPR is unique, and fully consistent with Article VI. The 2001 NPR established a New Triad of strategic capabilities, one that places far less reliance on nuclear weapons to meet U.S. defense policy goals. Until the 2001 NPR, the U.S. triad included intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers armed with strategic nuclear weapons. The "New Triad" includes:
Let me emphasize, Mr. Chairman, that the New Triad concept resulting from the NPR, in principle and in practice, will reduce reliance on nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. It reflects a totally new vision of the future, and is fully consistent with our indisputable resolve to implement Article VI.
A final thought about the NPR. It is unfortunate that, since the NPR's announcement, some have mischaracterized it. The NPR often is cited as quote, "evidence," unquote that the United States is failing to undertake its nuclear disarmament obligations. This, Mr. Chairman, is simply untrue. Regrettably, however, such criticism has the effect of drowning out the important message -- that of the United States reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons for its security, and of the tremendous strides that we are making to fully implement Article VI.
No New Nuclear Weapons
Mr. Chairman, let me state another fact. The NPT does not prohibit the nuclear weapon states from modernizing their nuclear forces. That said, it is important at this point to stress that the United States is not, repeat not, developing new nuclear weapons.
The charge that the 2001 NPR called for new nuclear weapons is incorrect. The United States is not developing, testing, or producing any nuclear warheads and has not done so in more than a decade. The NPR, however, did identify shortfalls in capabilities where new weapons -- conventional or nuclear -- could be required.
In this regard, there are two activities that have been debated extensively:
These programs are not what critics claim. The proposed research on advanced concepts has multiple purposes, including the furtherance of stockpile stewardship, which is the ongoing U.S. effort to ensure the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons without testing. In similar fashion, the robust nuclear earth penetrator (RNEP) study is intended to look at one possible way to enhance deterrence using an existing warhead in an era of shrinking stockpiles. It bears emphasis that there have been no decisions to move beyond the study stage, which would require Presidential and congressional action.
Critics argue that leaders would see low-yield weapons as readily usable, and that the nuclear threshold would be lowered as a consequence of their development. Again, this simply is not the case. The United States has had low-yield weapons since the 1950s. There were thousands at the height of the Cold War. They were not used. A decision to use nuclear weapons, which must be made by the President, is not easier if yields are lower. The nuclear threshold has always been very high, and will remain so.
Our efforts are directed toward ensuring that our ever-smaller nuclear stockpile remains safe and reliable in the absence of nuclear testing, and that the credibility, safety, and reliability of the nuclear element of our New Triad are maintained. Like all governments, the United States balances its obligations under Article VI with our obligations to maintain our own security and the security of those who depend on us. The United States is meeting all of these obligations, and we will continue to do so.
The Wrong Road
There are those, Mr. Chairman, who say that certain United States policies somehow are to blame for others' decisions to pursue nuclear weapons. These, however, are merely the words of nuclear proliferators or their apologists. From the very beginning, the NPT has recognized that certain states possessed nuclear weapons and would work to eliminate them. But compliance with all provisions of the NPT is very important -- and should be a shared objective. It is both logically and legally untenable for those who wish that nuclear disarmament were progressing at a faster rate to pretend that compliance with nonproliferation obligations is linked to compliance with disarmament obligations, or that the nonproliferation obligations of the Treaty are any less binding than the disarmament obligations, or to argue that the nonproliferation obligations should not be strengthened or enforced. Such thinking is, simply put, dangerous in the extreme.
Mr. Chairman, how can some assert that nuclear weapons are dangerous and should be eliminated, yet also imply that others may reserve the right to develop nuclear weapons if the nuclear weapon states do not disarm with greater dispatch? Again, such thinking is dangerous in the extreme.
What Review Conferences Do
Mr. Chairman, NPT Review Conferences serve a vital function. They facilitate a thorough exchange of views on Treaty implementation, and reaffirm the Parties' belief that the Treaty as a whole contributes to international security, as well as to their own. Review Conferences also can serve to build support for pursuit of NPT goals in other venues, such as the IAEA.
By their nature, Review Conferences are political exercises meant to underscore or reaffirm existing Treaty obligations, that is to say, obligations freely accepted by all Parties deriving from the Treaty itself. They are also opportunities to discuss threats to the Treaty, such as how some Parties seek to "pocket" the privileges of membership while preparing to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Review Conferences, however, are not amendment conferences, and any declarations or decisions or other text emanating from them neither supercede, nor reinterpret, nor add onto the explicit legal obligations of all Parties under the Treaty. The legal undertakings of the NPT are solemn commitments, requiring the approval of national political authorities and sovereign constitutional ratification processes. As we review past Article VI progress, and consider how to shape discussions for the next five years, it will be important to keep these points in mind.
General and Complete Disarmament
Mr. Chairman, the United States believes that many States Parties have made little effort to meet their non-nuclear obligations under Article VI: that is, to pursue negotiations in good faith on general and complete disarmament. In fact, this component of Article VI often is overlooked entirely, even though the text and negotiating history of the NPT support the expectation that efforts toward complete nuclear disarmament would be linked with efforts toward general and complete disarmament. As Article VI states, the full undertaking envisions a "Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."
Clearly, over time, the international community has moved away from pursuing this element of Article VI implementation in a literal sense. While this is not the time for a specific summary of United States achievements in the field of non-nuclear arms reductions, Mr. Chairman, we take this opportunity to state for the record that our efforts in this area, particularly in the field of chemical and biological weapons control, are extensive. In short, there is a clear relationship between the nuclear and non-nuclear aspects of Article VI, even though the language in the Treaty contains no suggestion whatsoever that nuclear disarmament must be achieved before general and complete disarmament can be achieved.
Mr. Chairman, the actions that our Government has taken, or is committed to take in the coming years, demonstrate that the United States is in full compliance with Article VI. As the Review Conference proceeds, the United States Delegation will provide further evidence of this, including several Article VI publications and a visual display just outside this chamber. We welcome full engagement and discussion on Article VI precisely because any objective review of the facts should lead to the conclusion that the United States is fulfilling its Article VI obligations. The U.S. is seeking to be as transparent as possible with regard to its Article VI activities, as all the nuclear-weapon States should be.
As the outstanding United States record of compliance with Article VI is better understood, Mr. Chairman, parties should come to understand that an excessive focus on nuclear disarmament denies due attention by the parties to the nonproliferation articles of the Treaty, and to the crisis of compliance to which this imbalance of attention has contributed so greatly. Indeed, all NPT parties must respond effectively to this crisis or our collective security will be diminished.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.