Briefing for representatives of mass-media by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on the issues of preparation to the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Moscow, April 26, 2019

On Monday, April 29, one of the most significant events of this year in the field of non-proliferation and arms control will begin in New York: the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (2020 NPT RevCon PC-3, April 29 - May 10).

The NPT is one of the pillars of the current international security system. It is a unique international treaty that harmoniously combines nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and equitable cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The NPT is a good example of the effectiveness of multilateral diplomacy and an exemplary model of positive interaction between States parties in addressing global international issues.

Last year (July 1, 2018) marked the 50th anniversary of the NPT’s opening for signature. Moscow hosted an international conference to commemorate this event. Ministers of foreign affairs of the NPT depository States – Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – issued a joint statement in support of the Treaty.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force. Just before this anniversary, the NPT Review Conference will take place.

The Russian Federation has been consistently, persistently and systematically pursuing the policy of strengthening all three pillars of the NPT regime.

One of the most important and urgent tasks is convening a conference on the establishment of a Middle East WMD-free zone (WMDFZ), as was decided at the 2010 Review Conference.

Russia has been making all necessary efforts for all interested States of this region to initiate such a dialogue. It is important to hold such a conference before the end of this year. We believe that they will succeed.

Another important task is to consistently implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. This unique arrangement of 2015 reinforced by the relevant UNSC resolution should be scrupulously respected and become a positive example of addressing complex matters using the NPT as a basis.

Nuclear disarmament undoubtedly remains a core issue on the agenda. Russia continues to set a positive example in this field as well. Being consistently committed to establishing a nuclear-weapon-free world, the Russian Federation has been taking successive steps to reduce and limit nuclear weapons and de-emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons in its national military doctrine. By honoring all our commitments in full, including under Article VI of the NPT, we share with other States the responsibility for maintaining peace and strengthening global security.

Our practical contribution to nuclear disarmament is quite exemplary and essentially unprecedented: Russia has reduced its nuclear arsenal by more than 85 per cent relative to the height of the cold war. We have fully implemented all our treaty obligations, including under the 2010 New START Treaty. The total capacity of the Russian strategic arms remains even below the limits for delivery vehicles and warheads established by the Treaty.

We should also recall the INF Treaty which has become the first document to provide for the practical reduction of nuclear arms. We have fully destroyed two classes of land-based nuclear missiles, even exceeding our obligations under the Treaty in terms of scale and parameters, as a sign of goodwill.

Moreover, Russia has reduced its non-strategic nuclear weapons by three quarters, converted them to the non-deployed category and placed them in the central storage facilities within its national territory.

Special note should be given to the Russian involvement in the international co-operation to explore the advantages of the peaceful use of atom, which is unique both in its scale and perfection of technologies. We have been extremely effectively sharing our achievements in this high-tech area with all the interested stakeholders in order to implement their rights under Article IV of the Treaty. Russian atomic technologies and decisions have been rightfully attracting more and more attention in the world. Rosatom State Corporation has been building 36 power units in 12 countries, which makes it a leader in the international arena. Our country has signed intergovernmental framework agreements on the peaceful use of atomic energy with 53 States and on building atomic energy facilities, with 18 States.

All active actions by the Russian Federation aimed at supporting the NPT have been taken in tight co-operation with our closest CSTO (the Collective Security Treaty Organization), CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States), SCO (the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and BRICS allies and partners as well as with like-minded NAM-countries and other responsible States of the international community, which, undoubtedly, contributes to strengthening the NPT regime and gives hope for the positive development of mutual efforts to maintain international security and strategic stability.

At the same time, today’s reality is that the U.S., its NATO allies and some other countries under its control are ignoring the opinion of the majority of the international community and have been for many years conducting a completely different policy complicating the NPT issue.

Steps to destroy the existing international legal architecture in disarmament and arms control taken by Washington in the late XX century have become a serious destabilizing factor for the NPT regime and the whole modern international security structure.

After the U.S. withdrawal fr om the fundamental ABM Treaty in 2002, we have, in fact, witnessed Washington’s total defiance of all fundamental agreements in strategic stability and arms control. The U.S. has been irresponsibly undermining all principles of multilateral equitable cooperation, meticulously elaborated and carefully preserved for decades, aimed at resolving the most acute problems of international security. Having for some reason decided that the international legal framework is a burden for it, the U.S. has started to recklessly shape its own chaotic "rules-based order", essentially, with the understanding that from now on all such "rules" will be dictated and, if needed, reviewed only at the behest of Washington. It is noteworthy that none of the U.S. allies has still called it to order. At the same time, there is no doubt that for the overwhelming majority of the UN Member States such an international legal innovation by the U.S. is absolutely unacceptable.

Nevertheless, all of this has already had a negative impact on the NPT review process and threatens to have the direst consequences for the upcoming Review Conference, to be held in the year of the anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force. 

In fact, there is not a single multilateral nonproliferation and arms control agreement that the United States would not attempt to undermine or simply renounce. All of this had a direct impact on the NPT review process.

Let us consider this situation step by step. And we will use only facts.

I have already spoken on the issues of the WMDFZ and the JCPOA.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is an important element of nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime and an effective tool for limiting nuclear weapons. This Treaty is intended to serve all of mankind and should not become hostage to ill-considered decisions made by individual countries.

Unfortunately, we see an absolutely different approach on the side of the United States. For the first time, a State, the ratification of which is required for its entry into force, officially declared that it would not ratify the CTBT.

Given the two decades of continued failure of the United States to ratify the Treaty, this step made by the current U.S. Administration came as no surprise. It has just once again demonstrated all the cynicism of the U.S. approach: the Administration of Bill Clinton once declared the CTBT a foreign policy priority; however, Trump's Administration has easily taken the diametrically opposite position.

We wonder whether there is any chance to maintain the CTBT in the current situation. In any case, the U.S. no longer has moral authority to make any demands on others in the context of nuclear test ban.

It would be useful for all U.S. allies cowardly evading discussions of the CTBT’s entry into force to understand this.

In general, the CTBT issue requires further in-depth analysis within the NPT review process and its obligatory inclusion into possible drafts outcome documents. Our American colleagues will not have any opportunity to avoid discussing the real situation and the foreign policy blunders that Washington constantly makes.

Of particular concern has been the fact that the United States continues to violate the key provisions of the very NPT and even encourages its allies to do likewise.

The erroneous practice of so-called nuclear sharing missions held by NATO countries includes such elements as planning the use of nuclear weapons and practicing to use them with the direct participation of representatives of non-nuclear-weapons States wh ere U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed. This practice is a grave violation of articles I and II of the NPT.

Both the actions of the United States practically transferring its nuclear weapons into the hands of non-nuclear-weapon States and the actions of the very non-nuclear-weapon States actually obediently agreeing to receive nuclear weapons constitute violations.

All of the above severely undermines the foundations of the NPT and creates additional major obstacles to further steps in nuclear disarmament.

There is only one way to resolve this issue - all nuclear weapons should be returned to the territory of the U.S., their deployment abroad should be prohibited, all infrastructure that enables the rapid deployment of such weapons should be dismantled. At the same time, all kinds of exercises related to training military personnel of non-nuclear States to use nuclear weapons should be completely banned.

In the NPT context, the updated U.S. policy looks very dangerous as well. The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review has significantly broadened the scope of options allowing the U.S. to use nuclear weapons, including as a preventive strike. For the first time the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review does not contain a clear confirmation of Washington’s commitment to the obligations under the NPT.

Essentially, the U.S. military thinking has gone almost half a century back – to the period when it was thought that a nuclear war was possible and that it was possible to win it. In this case, it is not a surprise that the U.S. has not responded to our proposal of half a year ago for a joint statement on the prevention of nuclear war.

The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review unveiled plans to develop new low-yield nuclear weapons (nuclear warheads for Trident II SLBM) and nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missiles. The U.S. is planning to deploy new variable yield and highly accurate aerial nuclear bombs in Europe. Nuclear weapons with such characteristics are clearly intended to be battlefield weapons. This means that the U.S. is deliberately lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, thus in reality purposefully increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict with catastrophic consequences. I want to pay particular attention of our European colleagues that your NATO ally considers exactly your territory as a «battleground» for nuclear use. Is it about time you all reflect on being on the razor’s edge?    

Against this backdrop, allusions in the review to the groundless statement about the "growing Russian nuclear threat" elaborately reiterated by the U.S. look especially cynical. The provisions of our Military Doctrine on the possibility to use nuclear weapons were intentionally distorted. The Western public is persistently told that Russia is allegedly reconsidering its views on the place and role of nuclear weapons and putting increasingly greater emphasis on them. All of this has nothing to do with reality.

As we all know, the most intense debates in the NPT format are traditionally related to disarmament. Unfortunately, U.S. actions make today's outlook on further steps in nuclear disarmament increasingly uncertain.

We have repeatedly discussed the bleak fate of the INF Treaty. In spite of all the violations of the Treaty by the U.S. since 1999, Russia has consistently taken steps towards its preservation. It is now clear that Washington has decided to leave the INF Treaty long ago, and the U.S. has left no stone unturned to find a pretext to implement this decision in practice. The preservation of the INF Treaty during the last two decades is a significant achievement of Russian diplomacy. Now we will have to work on minimizing the damage after Washington's decision to definitively dismantle the INF Treaty.

Uncertainty around the extension of the New START Treaty, which will expire on February 5, 2021, significantly complicates the situation further.

We have repeatedly stressed that we advocate its extending. This could give the opportunity to gain time in order to study possible approaches to the emerging new weapons in the world. However, first it is necessary to address the problem related to the fact that the United States has unilaterally removed from the accounting under the New START Treaty a considerable part of strategic delivery vehicles which they illegally declared converted, and we cannot confirm this as required by the Treaty. It is possible to solve this serious problem. It is a question of the U.S. political will.

Considering further reduction of nuclear weapons stipulated under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, our stance on this issue remains unchanged and is based on the principles of realism and pragmatism. Its core elements are the following.

- Reduction and limitation of nuclear weapons can be staged and based on the principle of common and indivisible security.

- Nuclear disarmament should be multilateral. At the same time the principle of consensus should be applied when addressing this issue, with interests of all States taken into account. 

- It is necessary to consistently create preconditions which could foster nuclear disarmament. This process must be considered in connection with the range of factors which have negative impact on strategic stability. Unilateral and unrestricted development of the global missile defense system; increasingly real prospects for weaponization of outer space; quantitative and qualitative build-up of conventional armaments; emergence of new weapons, including non-nuclear strategic offensive arms; attempts to undermine defense capabilities of other States by exerting pressure with the use of illegal unilateral sanctions circumventing the UN Security Council, as well as to damage the credibility of international organizations and destabilize the disarmament architecture are among these factors.

If challenges mentioned are not addressed basing on the principle of common and indivisible security, it is unlikely to seriously contemplate the implementation of practical measures related to nuclear disarmament, taking into account the role which nuclear weapons play for the security of many countries.

In general, constructive and results-oriented collaboration regarding nuclear disarmament is impossible without considering with respect security concerns of those participating in nuclear disarmament and - want to stress again - observing strictly the consensus rule, which ensures the balance of interests, particularly in the context of complex modern situation in the field of international security and stability.

Now, we have no high hopes that the recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference will be adopted by consensus. There are dramatically diverging approaches to a number of the most acute NPT agenda items, including nuclear disarmament dossier, JCPOA, CTBT, WMD-free zones, and regional developments, and they will hardly be resolved over the time left. 

Having said that and despite the mentioned challenges and differences Russia, acting in close cooperation with its partners and like-minded States, is committed to ensure the success of the 3rd Preparatory Committee session for the 2020 NPT Review Conference. I want to particularly emphasize that Russia’s delegation has constructive proposals on each item of the NPT review process agenda that pose no threat to the interests of any stakeholder. There are relevant instructions. At any moment we are ready to proceed with thorough negotiations on each item of the agenda.

We wish to avoid turning the 3rd session of the Preparatory Committee and the 2020 NPT Review Conference into an arena for a standoff. As we are entering the final stage of the review cycle, it is crucial to continue the work on a comprehensive review of how the Treaty provisions are implemented. Of equal importance is arriving to a decision on the pending points of procedure: agenda, work program and the appointment of the Review Conference Chair.

We stand ready to cooperate with all States and will do our best to make the 3rd session of the Preparatory Committee and the 2020 NPT Review Conference a success.