Speech by Federal Minister Steinmeier at an SPD conference on “Peace through Disarmament: International Law and Nuclear Non-Proliferation”, Berlin, 26 June 2006

26.06.2006 - Speech

Mr Director General,

Mr Chairman,



Ladies and gentlemen,

I expect some of you have been wondering whether this conference on disarmament has any real relevance today.

Certainly arms control policy is not the hot topic it was in previous decades.

For seven years now the Geneva Conference on Disarmament has been stalled. World leaders meeting at the UN last year failed to adopt a single new recommendation on disarmament.

To be frank, I see this whole trend as cause for grave concern. I absolutely agree with Hans Blix, who on presenting his recent “Weapons of Terror” report urged “It is time for a revival”.

I realize of course – which is why I make the point right at the outset – that in this of all fields any progress will require a great deal of patience as well as unremitting efforts to convince all concerned of the case for disarmament.

If we are serious about getting the disarmament process moving in the right direction again, we will have to think in terms of a long time span.

We will have to think how to make the best possible use of what limited scope the current negotiations offer.

And since this is all going to take time, it is vital we do everything possible in the meantime to prevent the insidious erosion – through indifference or a lack of commitment – of what has already been achieved.

To those countries that have profited greatly from the export and commodity boom of recent years I make a special appeal: do not squander your new-found wealth on prestige projects aimed at acquiring new weapons. More weapons do not mean more security. A secure future means investing in education, in research and above all in creating a stakeholder society!

As for countries such as China especially, we expect China to use its position and enormously increased influence in the world responsibly, hopefully in the same way it is now doing and will continue to do in connection with the efforts to resolve the current dispute with Iran.

Today I intend to focus on three core challenges, namely:

- nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,

- control of small arms, and

- arms control in Europe.


What was the starting-point of this whole process?

At the beginning of the sixties the Kennedy administration in the United States found itself facing a nightmare scenario: the emergence within ten or twenty years of some 20 to 30 nuclear-weapon states. It seemed just a matter of time before nuclear war broke out.

In this situation American leaders decided to endorse proposals put forward by the Irish for a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Treaty entered into force in 1970.

Since then the Cold War has ended, and this has had huge implications for security policy. The relatively predictable bipolar world has gone, the conflicts and confrontations of today's world fit no familiar pattern. The new realities include

- latent regional conflicts suppressed during the era of East-West confrontation

- new regional conflicts caused by the demise of the Soviet Union

- international terrorism

- new proliferation threats.

This all leads me to believe we are once again approaching a watershed. If the crisis over the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes is not resolved, I see a real risk of a new nuclear arms race developing at the end of the next decade. For neither in North-East Asia nor in the Near and Middle East will countries be prepared to accept a situation in which they could be the victims of nuclear threats or blackmail by their near or more distant neighbours, or which could undermine their actual or presumed aspirations to regional power status.

Other status-conscious countries aspiring to a leadership role in Africa, Latin America and Asia may likewise reconsider their decision to forgo nuclear weapons. In a world of multiple and fragmented conflict zones and increasing nuclear proliferation nuclear deterrence would be virtually unworkable. It would be considerably easier, too, for terrorists to get hold of nuclear material.

Preventing such a scenario is one important reason why we are currently involved in the dispute over the Iranian nuclear programme.

This is not about discriminating against any particular country and imposing double standards. No one wants to curtail Iran's legal right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as we have repeatedly made clear. But anyone who for 18 years has misled the international community and blatantly violated their treaty obligations must take responsibility for restoring the trust that has been lost and provide full clarification of all points at issue.

What is at stake with Iran is not just the authority of the Non-Proliferation Treaty but also preventing a nuclear arms race in the Near and Middle East as well as – crucially – protecting Israel from a threat to its very existence.

The package agreed by the EU 3, the United States, Russia and China offers Iran the prospect of far-reaching cooperation of immense value for the country's future.

What is important now – and on Saturday I made this very clear to the Iranian foreign minister – is that Iran recognizes the great benefits this package offers for its economy as well as its security.

If Iran restores the trust that has been lost, there is no reason why it should not once again fully exercise the rights it has under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We therefore expect Iran, as I pointed out to Mr Mottaki, to consider our offer in a constructive spirit and take the necessary steps to restore trust in the aims and intentions of its nuclear programme.

The danger of a dramatic increase in nuclear weapons states leading to a massive loss of security highlights how crucial it is that we continue to pursue the goal of a world free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

We should therefore be gravely alarmed by current developments threatening to erode the multilateral arms control treaties now in place. The failure just last year of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference should be seen as a serious warning of what could be in store.

For it is evidence of a trend that has gained ever more ground in recent years, an increasing reluctance to accept the basic premises of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Treaty is in essence a bargain: the non-nuclear weapons states agreed to forgo nuclear weapons in return for a promise by the nuclear weapons states to disarm.

If we want to maintain the Treaty's authority and integrity and prevent its threatened erosion, we need to give the basic premise of the Treaty new and enhanced credibility.

That means we cannot focus on only one side of the bargain, we cannot simply insist on and press for non-proliferation. We need to generate new momentum for nuclear disarmament as well.

As you will see from what follows, our main efforts in this direction are very much in line with the proposals Dr ElBaradei has just put forward.

What do we hope to achieve?

First and foremost we want to enhance credibility. We want to revive the stalled disarmament process. The basis for this are the steps agreed at the NPT Review Conference in 2000. These include the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), resumption of substantive work at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament, renewed efforts by the nuclear weapons states to agree on further balanced reductions in their strategic nuclear arsenals as well as to progressively assume arms control commitments for their sub-strategic weapons systems. Here the onus is above all on Russia and the United States. Most of the 27,000 nuclear weapons mentioned in the Blix Commission's report are in Russian or American arsenals.

Another important step is to close existing loopholes. The first priority is to open negotiations on banning the production of fissile material for weapons purposes (the so-called Cut-Off Treaty). Further arrangements are also needed to prevent civil nuclear energy being diverted to other purposes. One priority here is to develop multilateral concepts for the management of the nuclear fuel cycle so as to avoid a situation where countries are once again either haves and have-nots. That is the direction in which the international debate is now heading in the G8, for example.

We also need to consider how inventory stocks of highly enriched uranium being used for civilian purposes and how substitutes might be progressively introduced where technically feasible.

Another of our objectives is to make it easier to detect treaty violations. We want the declaration envisaged in the IAEA's Additional Protocol on safeguards as well as challenge inspections especially to become the verification standard and a condition for supplying nuclear goods and materials for civilian use.

We want to see multilateral obligations also implemented at national level. We support the development of common minimum standards setting out clear rules on how to incorporate into domestic law international treaty regimes and UN Security Council resolutions.

That is also the core requirement of Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), which obliges all states to enact legislation prohibiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, introduce strict export controls in this connection and secure and physically protect all materials of relevance to the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.

We want the NPT Treaty to become truly universal. In our view that means also India, Pakistan and Israel should become parties. Of course we know this is unlikely to happen any time soon. In the meantime we should therefore explore all possible ways to encourage them to align themselves more closely with the NPT regime.

I was thus keenly interested to hear what Dr ElBaradei had to say about the US-India agreement on nuclear cooperation. I believe he is quite right to see this agreement as a kind of deal offering assistance in the development of nuclear energy in return for the assumption of binding obligations along the lines envisaged under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the non-proliferation regime.

From this point of view, it would send a very positive signal if India were to sign up to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, proclaim a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes and make a commitment to limit and eventually terminate its nuclear weapons programme. These proposals are currently being considered by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, consultations in this connection are already under way.

If international efforts to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are to be successful, we need a well-judged strategy incorporating a range of different measures and approaches. Where there are proliferation problems, for example, they need to be viewed in a regional context. Where there are security problems, the only way to deal with them effectively is to recognize the legitimate security concerns of the countries involved. That is why I regard regional security policy as so important. That is why regional security guarantees are so important. They are part of a whole package, including confidence-building measures, arms control regimes and WMD-free zones, which can all make a valuable contribution towards shaping a region's security architecture.


I now come to the two other challenges on our arms control agenda.

There is no doubt the true weapons of mass destruction at the present time are small arms and light weapons. Every year they kill an estimated 300,000 to 500, 000 people – a number far exceeding the total killed by all other types of weapon altogether.

The huge proliferation of these weapons is a major factor in exacerbating conflicts, destabilizing states and societies and undermining economic and social development. That is why in many cases small arms control and destruction is the key to any successful strategy to restore stability and promote development. It can also help prevent crises and contribute to post-conflict rehabilitation. For this reason we in Germany are particularly keen to support efforts to control small arms.

At the Review Conference on the UN small arms Programme of Action due to start today, our goal will once again be to improve the global small arms control regime and get agreement particularly on tightening up transfer controls and further measures to combat arms brokering. It is certainly not going to be easy. The only way to get anywhere on such issues is to keep at it and never give up.


I am seriously concerned about arms control in Europe. The failure of the Third Review Conference of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty has jeopardized a cornerstone of Europe's security architecture.

Let us cast our minds back to what this Treaty is all about.

Together with the Vienna Document and the Open Skies Treaty, the old CFE Treaty had created a system of mutual information-sharing and cooperative verification as well as balanced and transparent arms reduction and control.

Since 1992 some 60,000 conventional weapons systems have been eliminated throughout the Treaty's area of application. We now have a stable low-level balance of conventional forces in Europe that excludes any possibility of a surprise attack or large-scale offensive action.

Without the CFE Treaty, it is hardly likely that German unity and the peaceful transformation Europe has experienced in recent years would have proceeded so smoothly.

In view of the radically changed political landscape following the end of the Cold War, it became clear the Treaty would have to be adapted to take account of these new realities. The task was successfully completed and the stability of the continent's security architecture assured. The Adapted Treaty signed in 1999 replaces the original Treaty's bloc-to-bloc structure with a system of national and territorial ceilings for conventional weapons systems.

The problem now, however, is that the Adapted Treaty has still not entered into force. This is a situation to which we cannot be indifferent.

We cannot allow obsolete Cold-War attitudes to once again gain the upper hand. The States Parties are called upon to live up to their responsibilities and unite their efforts to ensure the Adapted Treaty enters into force as soon as possible. We for our part will do all in our power to achieve this.

The reason we intend to campaign so vigorously for our arms control regime in Europe is that we are fully aware its collapse would have repercussions well beyond Europe's own borders.

All over the world Europe is still viewed as a model in how to build security and stability. Anything that undermines this model would also undermine our central premise that security can be built only by working with and not against each other.

Particularly in view of the new threats the world is up against, I believe this is a key message that is more important today than ever before.

During the Cold War we learned there was far more to be gained from cooperation than from isolation and confrontation. In the new situation we have today, that is a lesson we must not forget.

In endeavouring to ensure arms control once again gets the attention it deserves, we are working for a cause that in German foreign policy and – speaking here in Willy Brandt House, the headquarters of Germany's SPD – in Social-Democratic foreign policy, too, has a long and fine tradition.

Thank you very much.

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