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Staatsminister Erler zu den vom AA in Auftrag gegebenen Abrüstungsstudien

17.07.2009 - Rede

Speech by Minister of State Gernot Erler at a CNS event, Washington, 17 July 2009

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Sandy Spector,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I'm grateful to the CNS for giving me this opportunity to talk here in Washington about Germany's nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policy. The occasion is the presentation of a new CNS study carried out on behalf of the Policy Planning Staff at the Federal Foreign Office.

For some considerable time now, Germany has been playing a leading role in disarmament and arms control. It was tough in the past few years. For many believed this was yesterday's issue. But quicker than we could ever have expected, it has become a pressing issue of today and tomorrow.

This is thanks in particular to the American "Gang of Four", whose appeals for a world free of nuclear weapons refocused the world's attention on nuclear disarmament. And in Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, Helmut Schmidt, Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Egon Bahr publicly supported this vision.

President Obama's Prague speech showed that the US Administration also shares this percep­tion.

Global Zero may look like a distant vision: like the cloud-covered summit of a high mountain you want to climb.

But we know the direction and we can recognize the way and the stations ahead for quite a distance. What matters now, however, are the next steps.

The most important step in the right direction at present is the successful conclusion of the negotiations on a follow-on agreement to START by the end of the year. The Joint Under­standing on lowering the limits on strategic warheads and delivery systems by a third compared to the current limits, which was signed by the two Presidents at the US-Russian summit in Moscow at the start of the month, gives cause for hope.

Success here would have a big impact on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference next year. For only if we again find a balance between greatly reduced nuclear weapons stockpiles and enhanced non-proliferation instruments can the Non-Proliferation Treaty fulfil its role as the centrepiece of a functioning non-proliferation regime.

This will also require measures which counter the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation even more effectively. We have to strengthen the IAEA in its role as a verification body and make the Additional Protocol the verification standard. Only on this basis can adequate monitoring of Treaty compliance be guaranteed. To date, 91 states have concluded and put into force an Additional Protocol. That's not nearly enough!

In this connection, we also want to improve implementation of Resolution 1540, adopted during Germany's Security Council Presidency, to strengthen national export controls and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. Germany will hold a G8 experts workshop on this issue in Berlin this September. We want to identify concrete measures in areas such as capacity building and expert networks which can help the G8 foster implementation of Resolution 1540.

Despite the positive signs that the non-proliferation regime has been strengthened, it's impossible to ignore the risks facing the regime, in particular the provocative nuclear and missile tests carried out by North Korea and Iran's failure to cooperate on its nuclear programme. These two countries must not be allowed to flagrantly violate international law or threaten international stability. In particular, if Iran should manage to acquire the know-how to build nuclear weapons, a nuclear arms race could develop in the Middle East with unfore­seeable risks to world peace. The German Government therefore agrees with President Obama's dual approach on Iran: even after the violence perpetrated by those in power against the opposition, he is upholding his offer of negotiations and that of the E3+3, while strengthening the united international front on tougher sanctions and isolation of the Iranian regime should it continue to refuse to cooperate. Germany is firmly opposed to military action. For we believe it wouldn't discourage Iran, but could become an explosive force in the Middle East.

A Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) would greatly help overcome the resistance of many non-aligned states – partly in solidarity with Iran – to any attempts to counter the proliferation risks of the civilian use of nuclear energy. Such a treaty would not only hugely strengthen nuclear disarmament but also make it easier for states to refrain from acquiring enrichment technology. For it would dispel the impression that there is a two-class society.

The German Government therefore believes that the adoption of a programme of work at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, which ended a ten-year deadlock, offers a great oppor­tunity. For this programme will allow us to start negotiations on a verifiable FMCT.

Progress in the negotiations on an FMCT would certainly also help to overcome the scepti­cism of many states towards the various proposals on the multilateralization of the nuclear fuel cycle. The IAEA Board of Governors meeting in June showed how strong this scepticism is.

Along with some other Alliance partners, Germany is keen to involve NATO more in the nuclear disarmament efforts. The nascent discussion on NATO's new Strategic Concept presents us with an opportunity to consider the changing role of deterrence – and I'm not talking about giving it up.

For what purpose, at what point in time and under what circumstances nuclear weapons should be used must be examined critically. What's more, the issue of downgrading nuclear weapons within military and security strategies should be looked at. As a non-nuclear-weapon state and relying on the nuclear protection of the US, Germany supports President Obama's position that deterrence of the use of nuclear weapons should perhaps be made the sole objective of the nuclear strategy. We would welcome it if this approach were to be included in the forthcoming Nuclear Posture Review. It would most certainly have an impact on the NATO consultations on the new Strategic Concept.

For many years now, the Federal Foreign Office's Annual Disarmament Report has called for substrategic nuclear weapons to be abolished.

I'm aware that this issue is more complex than it appears at first. This is partly due to the asym­metry in the arsenals and their range, as well as the supposed protection they provide against conventional superiority.

In military terms, substrategic nuclear weapons don't make sense anymore. However, they are of great symbolic importance, especially for those NATO states which feel threatened and rely on American protection. Against this background, I believe that gradual reduction and elimination would be best.

The announcement made at the Moscow summit that work is to begin next year on a broader agreement with greater reductions in their nuclear arsenals with a view to leading the world towards the abolition of all nuclear weapons could, in Germany's view, also open up the pros­pect of including tactical nuclear weapons into the US-Russian talks following the successful conclusion of a follow-on agreement to START.

Let me conclude with some remarks on the link between nuclear and conventional disarma­ment.

If we really want to achieve Global Zero, we will also have to resolve some paradoxes. The less nuclear weapons the world has, the more important conventional weapons will become. This is true for the US, which is only prepared to give up its nuclear weapons if its conven­tional superiority can guarantee its security. And its all the more true for the other nuclear weapon states which already have a much smaller arsenal of conventional weapons and regard nuclear weapons as compensation for this. Thus there is a danger that they will see Global Zero as a weakening of their own position and as a means for America to attain absolute superiority. It's therefore crucial to find ways of shaping American superiority in such a way that it is not perceived by the others as a threat.

Conventional arms control in Europe illustrates what solutions are possible. Russia considers its tactical nuclear weapons as compensation for NATO's conventional superiority. If we want to persuade Russia to reduce its tactical nuclear weapons arsenals, we will have to preserve the substance of the CFE regime while, at the same time, adapting it to the changing security situation. For not only have the risks shifted from strategic to regional conflicts, the organiza­tion and equipping the armed forces have also changed.

2009 offers great opportunities for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The conditions and constellations for this have rarely been more favourable. Let us do everything in our power to seize the opportunities offered in 2009 in an optimal fashion. Let us work together to ensure that this year of change doesn't become a year of missed opportunities.

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