Minister of State Erler: “Towards Global Zero: New Momentum for Disarmament”

05.08.2009 - Speech

“Towards Global Zero: New Momentum for Disarmament”

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Mr. Samore,

Ms. Bungarten,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With a new US administration that sees arms control again as an integral part of its security policy, disarmament and arms control are back on the international agenda. We see a new momentum, both between the US and Russia and in the multilateral sphere. Just a hundred days after the seminal Prague speech in which President Obama endorsed “Global zero”, the objective of a nuclear weapon free world, this new momentum has already yielded first results:

  • Negotiations on a verifiable follow-up instrument to START I are well under way, as demonstrated at the recent Moscow summit. Although important questions still have to be resolved, the political will to arrive at a new instrument with lower limits for US and Russian strategic arsenals has been reconfirmed and the framework of the new treaty been set.

  • Next year, States Parties to the NPT - the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime - will convene for a Review Conference. The last preparatory meeting in May this year has – for the first time in that process – managed to agree on all outstanding procedural questions, allowing the Review Conference to concentrate from the start on substance.

  • After more than a decade of stalemate the Geneva Conference on disarmament has agreed on a program of work. Its central element is the negotiation of a Treaty to stop the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, the FMCT.

We direly need this new momentum to achieve long-needed progress in nuclear disarmament and to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime. This remains the key imperative. We are confronted with major proliferation challenges, first and foremost the provocative nuclear and missile tests conducted by North Korea and the unresolved questions concerning the Iranian nuclear program.

To confront these challenges, we must reinforce the international consensus behind the NPT. We cannot afford another failed Review Conference as in 2005. For the conference to be successful we need both the necessary political will and progress on the ground.

I share the assessment given by President Obama that the basic bargain of the NPT remains sound: Non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy represent a valid balance of security and development interests. The Review Conference should strengthen all three pillars of the Treaty and agree on concrete steps forward.

What do we need to move forward?

My first point is that we need to reinforce our efforts to combat nuclear proliferation. We must strengthen the IAEA in its role as guardian of compliance with the NPT and establish the Additional Protocol as the verification standard. We must work at other lines of defence: Improved implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 which was adopted under German presidency of the Security Council will allow us to establish effective national export controls globally and help to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMD. We will host a G8 expert workshop in September to work at this task. In this context I welcome the initiative announced by President Obama for a new global effort to secure loose nuclear material. Here we can build on what has already been achieved through the G8 Global Partnership.

My second point is that the international consensus to combat proliferation can only be strengthened if the nuclear weapon states engage in substantial and irreversible disarmament. The perspective of a nuclear weapon free world is already anchored in article VI of the NPT. But we need a clear recommitment to that goal. Last week at the L'Aquila summit, the G8 sent a strong signal by stating their determination to create the necessary conditions for a nuclear weapon free world.

These words must me followed by action. With the confirmation at the Moscow summit that a successor agreement to START I shall be finalized by the end of this year, the two biggest possessor states show that they intend to live up to their responsibilities. A follow-up treaty to START I is important for several reasons: as a continuation of the reductions negotiated under the START and SORT treaties, for continued verification of those reductions and as a re-building of confidence between the USA and Russia for subsequent steps. Germany believes that non-strategic nuclear weapons will have to be included in the next step of that process. These weapons which still are an important part of the Russian arsenal while only a residual component of NATO's nuclear deterrence cannot be neglected if we want to avoid dangerous disparities and move closer to “global zero”.

An important consequence of the “global zero” concept is that nuclear doctrines and force postures need to be adapted. President Obama has pledged to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the US national security strategy. Decreasing the role and status of nuclear weapons in security policies will be an essential element in making nuclear proliferation less rewarding for potential proliferators. While we agree that a strong deterrence must be upheld against potential threats from other states possessing nuclear weapons, deterrence could be limited to this function alone, at the strictest minimum level necessary. I consider that this has to be fed into the new strategic concept of NATO that heads of State and government have commissioned at the NATO summit in April.

A key element in the multilateral sphere is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. President Obama's commitment to achieve Senate consent to the CTBT and to work for ratification by other key states has raised new hope that this important building block of the international arms control architecture can finally enter into force.

In addition to reducing nuclear arsenals and putting an end to testing, further production of the raw material for nuclear weapons must be stopped – through the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty which I already mentioned. And not only fissile material for weapons must be addressed, but also its production for peaceful purposes, through establishment of multilateral solutions to the nuclear fuel cycle. Although many non-aligned countries remain sceptical because they fear an infringement of their NPT rights, I believe there is no alternative if we want to minimize the proliferation risks of peaceful use of nuclear energy. Germany has contributed its own idea of an international enrichment facility under IAEA control to this debate. The discussion at the last IAEA Board of Governors has shown that we still have a lot of work to do in order to build acceptance of the multilateralization concept.

While concentrating on nuclear disarmament, we should not miss the significance of conventional arms control. Here we are still in a crisis. We must not allow that – in a period of relative security in Europe – all we have acquired concerning disarmament and arms control after the end of the Cold War will fall victim to this crisis. Germany has a high interest in the continued existence and the development of the regime on Conventional Forces in Europe - CFE.

During a High Level Meeting on the Future of Conventional Arms Control in Berlin at July 10, by invitation of the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, nearly all of the participating 45 European nations emphasized the high significance of conventional arms control. We must make use of this momentum. Because one thing may not be misunderstood: nuclear and conventional arms control are just two different sides of one and the same medal.

Another relevant topic from the realm of conventional disarmament relates to cluster munitions. They are amongst the most problematic and vicious types of ammunition used in contemporary warfare – due to their large number of submunitions and high failure-rate.

The problems caused by cluster munitions were highlighted by the conflict that broke out in the Middle East in summer 2006, leaving vast areas of land contaminated for years after the fighting had ended. Since then, a number of states has pushed for and finally gained a strong treaty banning cluster munitions which was signed in Oslo in December 2008.

Germany has now completed its ratification process and will continue its support for all efforts to make the Convention truly universal.

We welcome the US decision taken in March 2009 to ban nearly all cluster bomb exports by the United States. We also appreciate the US commitment to address the humanitarian aspects of cluster munitions use through the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its constructive contribution to a new CCW protocol on cluster munitions.

From the German government's perspective, it should be our common goal to ban all cluster munitions and rid the world of these treacherous and deadly weapons.

I have touched on a number of key disarmament and arms control topics. We welcome that – due to the policy shift decided by the new US administration – these issues are back on the international agenda. All these issues require energetic US leadership. Let me assure you that Germany stands ready to provide its share.

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