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Arms Control and International Security: Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament

Thank you, Daryl, for that kind introduction. I would like to thank the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament for organizing this event and for your ongoing engagement on this important set of issues. As the panel is titled, “Steps and Measures by Nuclear-Armed States,” I would like to provide an update on our work implementing the agenda laid out nearly five years ago by President Obama in Prague, when he committed the United States to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons, a goal that he reaffirmed in his speech in Berlin this past June.

As President Obama noted in Prague and repeated in Berlin, this will not be easy. It will require persistence and patience, and may not happen in his lifetime. Still, over the last four years we have succeeded in moving closer to this goal.

In 2010, the Administration concluded a Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, which outlines the President’s agenda for reducing nuclear dangers, as well as advancing the broader security interests of the United States and its allies. As the NPR states, the international security environment has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War: the threat of global nuclear war has become remote, but the risk of nuclear attack has increased. Concerted action by all states to uphold their NPT obligations – including those related to disarmament – is important for building a sense of common purpose that helps maintain support from partners around the world to uphold and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Russia has been a key partner in our efforts to secure or eliminate these materials. For instance, the downblending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) by Russia under the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement has now been completed. The final delivery of the resultant LEU to the United States took place in December. Under this agreement, 500 metric tons of HEU from dismantled Russian weapons has been converted into LEU and delivered to the United States to fuel U.S. commercial nuclear power plants. The HEU that was converted by downblending was equivalent to approximately 20,000 nuclear warheads – instead, it has provided nuclear power plant fuel that has been used to generate nearly 10 percent of all U.S. electricity for the past 15 years.

In the United States, an additional 374 metric tons of U.S. HEU has been declared excess to nuclear weapons needs; most of which will be downblended or used as fuel in naval or research reactors. In 2011, the United States and Russia brought into force the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement and its 2006 and 2010 protocols, which require each side to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium – enough in total for about 17,000 nuclear weapons – and thus permanently remove this material from military programs. Russia has also been an essential partner in the U.S. Global Threat Reduction Initiative efforts to convert research reactors worldwide from HEU to LEU and repatriate those reactors’ HEU to the country of origin. These efforts have now converted or verified the shutdown of over 88 research and test reactors and isotope production facilities, and removed over 5,017 kg of HEU for secure storage, downblending and disposition.

In addition to reducing excess stocks of fissile material, we have taken steps to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy. We are not developing new nuclear weapons or pursuing new nuclear missions; we have committed not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapon states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations; and mindful of the devastating humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, we have clearly stated that it is in the U.S. interest and that of all other nations that the nearly 70-year record of nonuse of nuclear weapons be extended forever.

In June of 2013, in conjunction with his Berlin speech, President Obama issued new guidance that aligns U.S. nuclear policies to the 21st century security environment. This was the latest concrete step the President has taken to advance his Prague agenda and the long-term goal of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. After a comprehensive review, the President determined that we can ensure the security of the United States and our allies and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while safely pursuing up to a one-third reduction in deployed strategic nuclear weapons below the limits established in the New START Treaty.

Let me now address what we believe our next steps should be.

The United States and Russia still possess the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the world, and we have a shared responsibility to continue the process of reducing our nuclear arms. The New START Treaty was the first step in that process. The implementation of New START, now in its fourth year, is going well. When New START is fully implemented, the United States and the Russian Federation will each have no more than 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads – the lowest levels since the 1950s. Our overall nuclear stockpile is 85% below the peak level during the Cold War.

Going forward, the United States has made it clear that we are committed to continuing a step-by-step process to further reduce nuclear arsenals.

To this end, we are engaged in a bilateral dialogue with Russia to promote strategic stability and increase transparency on a reciprocal basis. We are hopeful our dialogue will lead to greater reciprocal transparency and negotiation of even further nuclear weapons reductions.

In addition to bilateral engagement with Russia, We will also be working to expand our public outreach on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. As stated in the April 2010 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review: “Ratification of the CTBT is central to leading other nuclear weapons states toward a world of diminished reliance on nuclear weapons, reduced nuclear competition, and eventual nuclear disarmament.”

I want to be clear - we have no desire to rush up here for a vote. It’s been 15 years since the CTBT was on the front pages of newspapers and whether we are talking to a Senator or a staffer, a schoolteacher or a student– we know that it is our job to make the case for this Treaty. Together, we can work through questions and concerns about the Treaty and explosive nuclear testing. In particular, the dangerous health effects of nuclear testing is a specific topic that can and should be addressed both here at home and abroad. Once we’ve brought the Treaty back to people’s attention, we can move on to discussion and debate – just like we did with the New START Treaty. We will not be setting timeframes for moving forward. We are going to be patient, but we will also be persistent. Above all, the CTBT is good for American national security and that is why we will continue educating the country on the treaty’s merits.

There are still further initiatives that are part of this Administration’s nuclear agenda. In Berlin, President Obama called on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons. A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty or FMCT would codify an end to the production of weapons-grade fissile material needed to create nuclear weapons, cap stockpiles of fissile material worldwide, place sensitive nuclear facilities around the world under international verification, and provide the basis for further, deeper, reductions in nuclear arsenals.

Beginning multilateral negotiations on the FMCT is a priority objective for the United States and for the vast majority of states, and we have been working to initiate such negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. An overwhelming majority of nations support the immediate commencement of FMCT negotiations. The United States is consulting with China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, as well as others, including India and Pakistan, to find a way to commence negotiations of an FMCT. And we will, of course, participate in the upcoming Group of Government Experts, which will begin its work this Spring.

In 2009, the five nuclear-weapon states, or “P5,” began to meet regularly for discussions on issues of transparency, mutual confidence, and verification. Since the 2010 NPT Review Conference, these discussions have expanded to address P5 implementation of our commitments under the NPT and the Action Plan adopted at the 2010 Review Conference. Russia hosted the most recent P5 conference in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2013, where the P5 reviewed progress towards fulfilling the commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and continued discussions on issues related to all three pillars of the NPT: nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, including confidence-building, transparency, and verification experiences. We are looking forward to continued discussions at a fifth P5 conference in April in Beijing. In addition to providing a senior level policy forum for discussion and coordination among the P5, this process has spawned a series of discussions among policymakers and government experts on a variety of issues. China is leading a P5 working group on nuclear definitions and terminology. The P5 have agreed to a common format for NPT reporting, and we are also beginning to engage at expert levels on some important verification and transparency issues. As we proceed, we would like the P5 conferences and intersessional meetings of experts to develop further practical transparency measures that build confidence and predictability.

None of this will be easy, but the policies the Administration is pursuing are suited for our security needs and tailored for the global security threats of the 21st century. By maintaining and supporting a safe, secure and effective stockpile — sufficient to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies — at the same time that we pursue responsible verifiable reductions through arms control, we will make this world a safer place.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.