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'The NPT Regime Is Not Working': Speech by Alexander Vershbow, US Ambassador to Russia, May 26

'Russia, NATO, and International Organizations', speech by Alexander Vershbow, US Ambassador to Russia, Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INION RAN), Moscow, May 26.

[T]his coming weekend 43 leaders from all over the world, including President Bush, will gather in St. Petersburg to pay tribute to that city's 300th anniversary. The St. Petersburg events - as well as President Bush's two previous visits to Russia in the past twelve months - also reflect the importance of Russia in the 21st century geopolitical environment, a world very different from the one that existed for most of the second half of the 20th century. We no longer live in a Cold War world divided by East-West conflict and ideological disputes about communism and capitalism. Instead, we face new threats such as global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, threats that must be dealt with more effectively by the community of civilized nations.

From the point of view of the United States, it is essential for global stability that Russia be more deeply integrated into the structures and institutions that will deal with the political, economic and security challenges of the 21st century.

  • Russia's cooperation with NATO and the European Union, and its direct participation in the Council of Europe and the OSCE, are the means by which we hope to see Russia play a central role in shaping a more peaceful, stable and prosperous Europe and a more solid Euro-Atlantic partnership.
  • Globally, Russia's status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and participant in non-proliferation regimes, as well as its future full membership in the G-8 and World Trade Organization, give Russia additional means to contribute to meeting today's challenges and to advance Russia's own interests.

Indeed, with Russia's transformation into a country that shares the same values as Western democracies (individual freedom, democracy, economic liberty, the rule of law), there shouldn't be any limit to Russia's integration.

NATO is one mechanism that helps us deal with the post-September 11 security environment. The United States believes that a larger NATO and a strong NATO-Russia partnership, uniting like-minded states, will enable us to confront new security challenges that emanate from outside Europe. NATO itself is now undergoing a dramatic transformation to equip itself to deal with 21st-century risks, in particular terrorist attacks together with nuclear, biological and chemical threats. NATO had its difficulties during the Iraq crisis; but the fact that NATO forces will be running the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, and that NATO will be supporting Polish and other coalition forces in post-war Iraq, suggests that theAlliance's future remains bright.

The United States was a strong advocate of the increased NATO-Russia partnership that we are now witnessing with the NATO-Russia Council formed exactly one year ago. The NRC is a notable advance over previous efforts at cooperation in the Permanent Joint Council. I am greatly encouraged to see that work in the NRC reflects a new spirit of flexibility and compromise. The new Council relies on the same principles of consensus, consultation and cooperation that have guided the work of the NATO Allies over the past five decades. Russia's voiceis being heard in deliberations as an equal member when the Council examines and debates critical issues. But the Council is not a debate club - its success will be determined by its activities and actions. Judged by this standard, the Council is off to an impressive start.

As I mentioned, the NRC met here in two weeks ago to celebrate its first anniversary, and the Ambassadors of the "20" agreed that the Council is evolving into an effective mechanism for consultation, cooperation, joint decision-making and - most importantly - joint action. Formation of the NRC has resulted in intensified cooperationin the war against terrorism, crisis management, defense reform and military-to-military cooperation:

  • For example, last September Russia hosted a joint civil emergency exercise in Noginsk, where 30 countries cooperated in responding to a mock terrorist attack using chemical weapons - unfortunately, an all-too-real threat in today's world. This exercise yielded valuable lessons on how we can help save innocent lives through unprecedented cooperation by first responders from all over Europe.
  • In February NATO and Russia signed a landmark agreement on cooperation in the area of submarine search and rescue. The agreement specifies that NATO and Russia will work together to standardize procedures and collaborate in developing the necessary equipment, and conduct joint exercises.
  • Military authorities have additionally completed joint assessments of the threat posed by al Qaeda to peacekeeping forces in the Balkans and to civil aviation.
  • The NRC has made considerable progress in carrying out a thorough evaluation of the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Perhaps most significantly, NATO and Russia have established a mechanism for long-term cooperation in the area of European missile defense. We hope this will lead to concrete forms of cooperation - including among our defense industries - to defend NATO and Russian forces and territories against the growing threats of ballistic missile attack.

So the NATO-Russia Council is one of the good examples of how Russia and other democracies can cooperate. Beyond the NRC, Russia is playing an important role in many other key areas of importance to world peace and security. One example in the headlines today is the search for peace in the Middle East. The process has gained new impetus in the aftermath of the Iraq war and, most recently, with the historic decision yesterday by the Israeli cabinet to endorse the "Road Map" for a comprehensive peace settlement based on two states. President Bush is committed to seizing this new opportunity, and we appreciate the key role Russia, alongside my country, the UN and the EU, is playing in the Middle East Quartet. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has demonstrated Russian leadership in the diplomatic efforts to reach a consensus on the "Road Map." ...

I have touched on just a few of the areas where cooperation with Russia is going relatively well. Today, the world's great powers have indeed recognized a common interest in confronting the threats that face mankind: HIV/AIDS, drugs, poverty, trafficking in human beings, and, of course, the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Moreover, if the great powers see their interests increasingly through the prism of common values, one would argue that achieving unity should be easy when crises arise. Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case when united action was required to deal with the threat posed by Iraq. We need to ask ourselves why.

The disagreement over Iraq and the deep split that emerged in the UN Security Council have prompted many commentators to suggest that we need to transform the institutions by which we manage crises in the 21st century. I would submit, however, that the institutions themselves are not at fault. Rather, what is needed is fresh thinking about the nature of the threats we face to international peace and security and the new tools that the international community needs to counter those threats more effectively. If we can come to agreement on how to deal with new and emerging threats, when the next crisis occurs, it should be much easier to achieve the essential unity and political will that were missing in the UN Security Council in the weeks leading up to the Iraq war.

With this in mind, it is useful to compare how the International Community is dealing with the two most serious threats to the global security today, international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Since 9/11, we have made considerable progress in strengthening international efforts to defend our societies against the threat of international terrorism. We have not only dealt the Taliban and Al Qaeda a major blow in Afghanistan and in other parts of the world. With UN Security Council resolution 1373, we have established a broad set of obligations binding on all nations to block terrorist financing and denying safe haven to terrorist groups. We have strengthened coordination among law enforcement agencies and, in the US-Russian context, engaged in unprecedented forms of intelligence sharing that have helped prevent attacks and shut down terrorist groups.

In saying this, I am not suggesting that the anti-terror struggle is nearly over. Far from it. We have seen new, coordinated acts of terror in recent weeks, and Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures are still at large plotting new attacks. Yet, even though there is much unfinished business, the international norms and the tools for dealing with terrorism are well understood, and they are beginning to work reasonably well.

The same cannot be said, however, with respect to our means for countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Iraq, we and our coalition partners had to use force to topple a regime that refused to give up its WMD peacefully (which was the condition for the ceasefire at the end of the Gulf War in 1991). Diplomacy failed because the UN Security Council did not have the unity of purpose to insist that Saddam comply with its demands, or the means to make him comply short of war. While we consider the use of force in Iraq to be fully legitimate, we share the disappointment that a peaceful solution could not be found. The lesson is that we need to develop better tools to deal with the next proliferation challenges - Iran and North Korea - if we want to avoid the need to use force in the future.

The cases of Iran and North Korea demonstrate that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime is not working as intended. That regime is based on a simple bargain: if a state renounces nuclear weapons, it can gain access to assistance and technology for developing peaceful uses of atomic energy. Although a state must accept some safeguards and verification measures, the regime is based heavily on trust. What has happened? North Korea has cheated on the 1994 agreement under which it supposedly gave up its nuclear weapons by starting a covert program for uranium enrichment - and they did this many years before the Bush Administration came into office. Now Pyongyang has renounced the NPT and the North-South denuclearization agreement, restarted its plutonium reactor, and even claims it already has a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, there is new evidence that Iran is seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. Previously our concerns centered on the nuclear power station at Bushehr that Iran has been building with Russia's assistance for some years. The risks from that project were supposed to be reduced by Iran's reliance on Russia for supplies of nuclear fuel and a commitment to return all spent fuel to Russia. Yet we have now learned that Iran has secretly been developing its own uranium enrichment capability - with technology from sources other than Russia - which would circumvent the safeguards Russia has been trying to put into place. Secretary Powell's talks here ten days ago suggest Russia is coming to share this concern.

So we need to consider what new tools, what new forms of leverage, we can bring to bear to stop these two countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, and to strengthen all the non-proliferation regimes. Do we need to impose stricter forms of inspections? Do we need to impose sanctions or other punitive measures if diplomatic suasion doesn't work? Should we accelerate our cooperation on anti-missile defense in order protect our countries against nuclear blackmail in the event we are unable to prevent proliferation? Do we need new strategies for our militaries, or for the new NATO-Russia Council, to prevent or counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? Russia has a major role to play in finding the answers to these questions.

Our joint efforts to fight terrorism and WMD proliferation are not the only areas where Russia's contribution is needed. The most immediate topic on the agenda, of course, is post-war Iraq. Success there - that is, establishment of a stable government that represents the true interests of all the Iraqi people, that does not threaten its neighbors, that is free of WMD - could mark the beginning of a new era of peace and progress in the Middle East as a whole. We are glad we have found common ground on the essential first step, passage of a new UN Security Council resolution to lift the sanctions. That agreement will help the people of Iraq, and will help restore confidence in the UN Security Council itself as we turn our attention to Iran, North Korea and other future challenges.

I'm reminded of the Greek proverb that the measure of a man is what he does with power. The same goes for nations, too, and the measure of the greatness of Russia will be in how it wields its power in facing the challenges that currently stand before us, and how well it cooperates through the many international mechanisms that exist. Russia has a larger stake than most countries in helping to ensure global security, if only because geography puts it on the front lines in dealing with the dangers posed by North Korea, Iran, and by terrorism and instability in the Middle East and South Asia. In addressing these many problems, it is our hope that we can replicate elsewhere the cooperative spirit and new thinking that we have seen in the new NATO-Russia Council.

Source: Text - Vershbow Says Russia's Help Needed on Iran, North Korea, US Department of State (Washington File), May 29.

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