Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, during the UN Security Council meeting on Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
I will begin by stating frankly that we were surprised by the inclusion of the issue of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the context of country-specific topics.
There are other, more inclusive, formats for that. In our view, the most appropriate format for Security Council meetings on non-proliferation is one involving a discussion of general principles for solving the problem rather than picking fights with States that have had the misfortune to be designated so-called rogue countries by individual members of the Council.
That is the approach in the concept note from the United States delegation, which artificially links three country situations that have nothing in common. To understand the essence of what is happening, a brief history lesson is in order.
Russia and the United States were at the forefront of developing the concept of international cooperation aimed at preventing weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of non-State actors, as embodied in resolution 1540 (2004). Our countries affirmed the importance of setting up a judicial and law-enforcement bulwark designed to prevent such evils through intergovernmental cooperation.
Thereafter, however, the landscape began to change significantly, and the concept was sacrificed to the geopolitical manoeuvres of some of our partners, leading to acute destabilization in a number of regions around the world. We are all well aware of what the result of exploiting non-proliferation mechanisms to put pressure unpopular regimes was.
The fate of Saddam Hussein, who, as we know, had no weapons of mass destruction but was accused of possessing them, and of Muammar Al-Qadhafi, who voluntarily gave up his own programme, became a pretext for certain States to accelerate their programmes for developing weapons of mass destruction. While that in no way justifies the nuclear-missile programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it is shortsighted to ignore or fail to understand the reasons behind it.
Taking advantage of the externally generated chaos — and sometimes military interventions, such as in Syria, Iraq and Libya — extremists of all stripes have been granted a broad range of opportunities for acquiring and making use of weapons of mass destruction. What is that if not a gross violation of resolution 1540 (2004)?
An unprecedented new challenge has emerged. Attempts to get the Security Council to at least pay attention to various glaring facts, let alone take action, continue to be deliberately blocked without any serious justification. Consider, for example, that resolution 2118 (2013) includes a provision obliging Governments that are neighbours of Syria to inform the Security Council immediately of any attempts by non-State actors to acquire weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery. Judging from the lack of any such reports to the Council, one might suppose that the problem simply does not exist. However, our attempts to raise that issue in the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) were firmly suppressed by our Western partners.
We have repeatedly heard about the use of poisonous substances by combatants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups. There are reports of their access to both the technologies and infrastructure needed to manufacture such weapons. Such problems should be thoroughly investigated by the Security Council, but thanks to the efforts of some of our partners, they continue to be passed over in silence.
Let us speak frankly. Syria no longer has any Government chemical-weapon programmes, and the task of ensuring the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Syria is now limited to preventing them from falling into the hands of non-State actors. As far as we know, no one has presented convincing evidence to the contrary to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Moreover, the Russian-Syrian proposals for conducting a comprehensive investigation of the United States version of the tragic events of April in Khan Shaykhun were met with active opposition.
The result is that so-called reliable reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons at Syria’s Al-Shayrat airbase, which was used to justify an act of aggression against a State Member of the United Nations, has still not been confirmed by OPCW inspectors or experts from the OPCW-United NationsJoint Investigative Mechanism, despite the fact that the facility has been open to them since April.
We firmly believe that it is the efforts by a number of our partners to force the facts of these matters to fit the Procrustean bed of their political purposes that constitute the main reasons for the appearance in the Middle East and North Africa of the chimera of chemical terrorism, which has begun to abate only since the Syrian people have made a major breakthrough in the fight against terrorism.
We believe that the key to an effective WMD non-proliferation regime lies in renouncing interference in the internal affairs of States and the policy of overthrowing unpopular regimes, as well as in establishing a unified and indivisible security system for all countries, without exception. If the those issues are not dealt with, the Security Council’s non-proliferation sanctions will merely freeze the current issues without helping to resolve them for good, especially at a time when the Council’s primary role in the maintenance of international peace and security is being undermined by the introduction of illegitimate, unilateral measures.
We have seen the effectiveness of respect for those principles in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has become a symbol of the triumph of multilateral diplomacy and an affirmation of our ability to settle highly complex problems through negotiation as long as the requisite political will exists. The information-sharing, verification and control mechanisms developed within the framework of the JCPOA are enabling us to make progress on a path to a broader conclusion by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as to the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Based on regular inspections, the Agency has confirmed that Iran is fully complying with its obligations. We were surprised today to learn from the United States Secretary of State that Russia is apparently undermining the IAEA. That is, of course, news to us. Unfortunately, we have recently seen irresponsible, unilateral attempts to torpedo that breakthrough collective agreement. We hope that common sense will prevail in the end, and that the Plan will be allowed to become fully operational, thereby allowing it to reach its full potential. In that regard, implementation of their voluntary commitments in good faith by all States Parties to the JCPOA is key.
At the beginning of my statement, I said that these country situations are not linked to one another, but I would like to correct myself. Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea became linked today, because a withdrawal from the JCPOA by the United States would be the worst possible signal we could send to North Korea. Similar and even more intensive diplomatic efforts are now needed on the Korean peninsula.
We need to start now so as not to waste any more time or wait for the logic of confrontation to prevail. We are convinced that the reasons for the tensions on the peninsula are not just Pyongyang’s nuclear-missile programme and the pretext it creates for heightened military activity in the region but are also the result of the lack of mechanisms providing a single and indivisible security system for every country in North-East Asia. It is clear that without such mechanisms, a political and diplomatic settlement of the problems on the Korean peninsula is impossible.
We do see a solution in the implementation of the Russian-Chinese initiative, which at present is the only plan of action on the table. It would be a step in the right direction if the Security Council endorsed the well-known “four nos” concept, spelled out by Secretary of State Tillerson, who is present here today.
In conclusion, I would once again like to stress that the future prospects for non-proliferation cannot be considered in isolation from the overall strategic context. Realpolitik presupposes that all factors with a bearing on strategic stability and international security must be considered. Among others, they include the continuing establishment by the United States of global missile defence systems and NATO’s joint nuclear missions, which it carries out in violation of articles I and II of Strengthening the WMD non-proliferation regime is important to Russia, and we will do our utmost in support of that goal, with a focus on active cooperation with our regional and international partners. the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.