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    Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, at the Plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, 1 March 2011

01-03-2011

    Dear Mr. Secretary-General

    Dear Mr. Chairman

    Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen

    The Conference is a unique forum, both for the number of participating States, and the scale of the tasks it is facing. It is apparent that everybody present here clearly understands the imperative of combining efforts in a joint search for solutions to global challenges and threats. This requires a positive and unifying agenda that will allow to find a sustainable balance of interests based on the legitimate concerns of every State. We are convinced that this is key to strengthening peace and stability.

    The understanding of this reality has already yielded results. The discussions on Euro-Atlantic security are characterized by lower incidence of confrontation, suspicion and prejudice and a greater desire for cooperation and increased mutual confidence. Sound trends are also making their way in the sphere of disarmament and arms control. Among the most important recent achievements is the entry into force of the Russia-US Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, as well as a successful 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

    The New START is the contribution of Russia and the United States to strengthening global security and non-proliferation regime and promoting nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT. The reductions of strategic offensive arms provided for in the Treaty will be irreversible, verifiable and transparent. The principles of equality, parity, and equal and indivisible security stipulated in the Treaty make it the “golden standard” of achieving agreements in the military and political dimension of international relations.

    The question asked by many is “What is next?”. First of all, we are to assess the efficiency and viability of the New Treaty as it is implemented in practice. The full-fledged implementation of the measures it provides for will bring us to the point where all aspects of the evolving strategic stability equation without exception should be taken into consideration. This means that further progress on the way towards nuclear disarmament will require that a number of specific issues be addressed. I will try to set forth our approach to it.

    It is clear that Moscow and Washington still possess the largest nuclear arsenals. We, however, do not live in a vacuum. The decrease in total numbers of Russian and US nuclear arsenals leads to a situation when the thresholds on delivery vehicles become of increased importance: in the long run, it is the number of delivery vehicles, their technical characteristics and viability, as well as a number of other factors, that determine the actual deterrence capability. Involvement of all nuclear-weapon states without exception in the process of limitation and reduction of their own arsenals is more and more pressing. This understanding is becoming part of a wider social and political discussion.

    I would note the ideas of the Global Zero Initiative and the Luxembourg and Munich Fora, as well as some other NGOs specializing on global security. Their proposals are to a large extent reasonable and constructive. In the future, we intend to continue to interact proactively with these institutions with a view to providing intellectual support to intergovernmental negotiations.

    We use our contacts to present the Russian position on the prospects of nuclear disarmament in a very detailed way. This position is defined by the key principle of indivisibility of security. We insist that there is a clear need to take into account the factors that negatively affect strategic stability, such as plans to place weapons in outer space, to develop non-nuclear armed strategic offensive weapons, as well as unilateral deployment of a global BMD system. Nor could we ignore the considerable imbalances in conventional arms, especially against the background of dangerous conflicts persisting in many regions of the world. It is not possible to talk about "global zero" while disregarding all of these interrelated factors. At the same time these very factors and their interrelationship must be taken into account in the course of discussion on prospects for cuts of tactical nuclear weapons. In any case withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons to the territory of the State to which they belong as well as removal of the infrastructure for their deployment abroad should be regarded as a first step towards the resolution of this problem. So, the scope of these problems is quite complex and it requires that all States should take it into thorough and comprehensive account.

    Meanwhile the disarmament agenda includes a number of priority issues which should and can be resolved today. It means in particular to ensure early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Once again we encourage all countries which have not yet done so to sign and ratify this Treaty. Unilateral moratoriums on nuclear tests are useful, but they cannot substitute for enshrining this key obligation for global security in the international law.

    The diligent implementation by all of the Action Plan adopted at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010 is another priority. This document contains a carefully elaborated and balanced agenda for the joint work in the area of nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It is of principled importance that the Parties to the NPT have asserted their commitment to the enhancement of the verification capabilities of the IAEA and universal application of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement. Russia will consistently strive for implementation of all these arrangements.

    With respect to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We are convinced that multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle open the best way to implement in practice the core principle of inextricable link between the three pillars of the NPT. And it should be absolutely clear to all that extended access to the peaceful nuclear energy is only possible in strict compliance with the highest non-proliferation standards. Our common objective is to prevent the "replication" of sensitive technologies around the world while ensuring the realization of legitimate rights of complying Parties to the NPT to develop nuclear power production. It is along these lines that Russian initiatives on the establishment in our territory of the International Uranium Enrichment Centre and guaranteed reserve of low enriched uranium under the IAEA management are being implemented.

    It would hardly have been possible to achieve success at the NPT Review Conference held last year if we had not been able to agree on concrete steps to implement the 1995 resolution on the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and means of their delivery in the Middle East. We call for an earliest start of preparations for an international conference on this issue to be held in 2012, including the appointment of a facilitator for the preparatory process. Latest events in the Middle East region make this a task of paramount importance.

    We still fail to fully overcome the inertia of the past despite positive developments in multilateral disarmament. It is reflected at the Geneva Conference where the 2009 agreement on the Programme of Work has not opened up for substantive negotiations.

    This is regrettable, because the unique potential of the Conference on Disarmament as a multilateral negotiating platform for elaboration of key international agreements remains "frozen".

    The Russian Federation actively participated in the high-level meeting convened last September in New York at the initiative of the UN Secretary-General to find ways to bring out of the stalemate the situation at the Conference and, more generally, in the system of multilateral disarmament on the whole. The discussion continued early this year already in Geneva.

    A lot of ideas were voiced, including some radical ones – to revise the consensus rule in the work of the Conference or to start negotiations on its agenda items elsewhere. We cannot support such ideas.

    The rule of consensus is a fundamental principle of the disarmament mechanisms. No other approach is acceptable in the field of security, where each State has its legitimate interests. They cannot be ignored. On the contrary, we should patiently continue our search for mutually acceptable solutions. This presumes, among other things, that there should be no abuse of the consensus rule, and that the attempts to turn it into a veto right should be rejected. But in any case, no matter how difficult it might be, we need to search for compromises rather than try to find an "easy" way out by launching "parallel" negotiation processes outside the Conference on Disarmament. Otherwise, we would witness further degradation of the whole multilateral disarmament system.

    The above-mentioned is completely relevant in regard to the issue of launching talks on a universal, equitable and verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. If the talks are to succeed, they should be carried out within the framework of the Conference rather than somewhere else. This is the only way to involve all key players.

    Russia's key priority for the Conference on Disarmament is the prevention of an arms race in outer space. In six weeks the humanity will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the heroic feat of Yuri Gagarin that has been forever ranked among the greatest achievements of civilization.

    It is all the more important to be responsible and careful about the use of outer space. We sometimes hear: why worry, if no real problem exists. We view such an approach as a wrong one. There are already capabilities in the world to deploy weapons in outer space or to use force against spacecraft. The build-up in such capabilities will increase their destabilizing impact.

    It is the wish to prevent the worst case scenario that guided Russia and China when they introduced in February 2008 a draft Treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space. It is our goal to ensure that such a treaty codifies legal obligations based on parity - without distinction between those countries which are “allowed” to posses weapons in outer space and those which are not.

    We expect the substantive work on the Russian-Chinese draft to start as soon as possible. We may lose the right moment, if we do not start this work now. We are convinced that preventing weapons from being placed in outer space is really necessary to strengthen the predictability on the ground. Let us not forget that the ghost of nuclear monopoly has lead to the arms race resulting in the inertia that we have only started to overcome.

    We assess the approval by the UN General Assembly of the resolution on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space that we cosponsored with a large group of States as a sign of growing awareness by many countries of the importance of this problem. We will seek to further consolidate the efforts of international community on this crucial issue.

    Russia confirms its readiness to engage in a substantive discussion at the Conference on the issue of security assurances to non-nuclear weapon States, including the elaboration of a relevant legally binding treaty. We will also join the consensus with respect to the establishment of a Conference on Disarmament auxiliary body for discussing the issues of nuclear disarmament.

    I would like to stress once again: all these tasks may only be achieved if the Conference is working effectively. We have noted with interest some proposals on how to improve its work. We believe, for instance, that a balanced and stage-by-stage approach to expansion of membership of the Conference, involving non-governmental organizations in its informal meetings may be helpful in terms of developing some new and constructive ideas.

    Conference on Disarmament has an impressive record: some of the treaties that constitute the basis of the modern system of international relations have been worked out within its framework. Our task is to confirm and strengthen the viability of the Conference. This is the focus of the objective realities of the newly formed polycentric world order in which any problems can be resolved only on a collective basis.

    Russia stands ready for such work.

    Thank you for your attention.