Statement by Deputy Head of the Russian Delegation Mr. Konstantin Vorontsov in the First Committee of the 77th Session of the UNGA at the Thematic Discussion on Nuclear Weapons
The practical advancement along the nuclear disarmament track can only be provided on the basis of the consensus by adhering to the calibrated and phased reductions in the context of Article VI of the NPT and to imperative of maintaining strategic balance drawing on the principle of equal security. To achieve progress en route to this destination and ensure its sustainability, we need consolidated efforts of the international community to create a security climate that would be conducive to further limiting, reducing, and, ultimately, totally eliminating nuclear weapons. The contribution of every State is valuable. Non-nuclear-weapon States on a par with nuclear-weapon States should foster in practice the overall reduction of the international tensions and facilitate in shaping the realistic global disarmament agenda.
Despite of the obvious progress in nuclear weapons reductions, the nuclear powers are accused of neglecting their disarmament commitments. We cannot agree with this interpretation, at least with regard to Russia. We strictly and fully comply with our obligations under the NPT. By firmly pursuing this path, we have elaborated and concluded a number of international agreements to reduce and limit nuclear weapons as well as undertaken important unilateral steps in this area. As a result, Russia has reduced its strategic weapons potential by 85 % in comparison with its peaks in the 1980s, as well as its non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNWs) – by three-quarters of what the USSR had in 1991. All Russia's NSNWs have been transferred to the non-deployed category and concentrated at the centralized storage facilities within the national territory.
In February last year, the New START Treaty was extended for five years at Russia's initiative. In July 2021, pursuant to the agreement of the Presidents of Russia and the United States, integrated dialogue on strategic stability was initiated, with the expectation to consider all security issues that raised concerns with the Parties and determine possible ways of their resolution by politico-diplomatic means, including arms control mechanisms. However, the United States devaluated those dialogue efforts by blatantly rejecting our justified demand to reverse its course at infringing Russia’s core security interests and by forcing us to take countermeasures. Faced with our resolute pushback, the United States chose to freeze the strategic dialogue. For our part, we recognize the special responsibility of the two greatest nuclear powers for international peace and security. In principle, we remain open to work on reducing tensions, avoiding arms races and minimizing strategic risks. However, it is possible exclusively on the basis of equality and respect for the interests of Russia.
For decades Russia has been consistently reducing the place and role of nuclear weapons in its Military Doctrine. Our nuclear deterrence policy is strictly defensive, and the conditions for nuclear weapons use are limited to extreme circumstances defined in the Russian policy documents that are publicly available.
At the same time, the possession of nuclear weapons so far remains for our country the only possible response to concrete external threats. The developments in Europe confirm the validity of our concerns. Having grossly violated the principle of equal and indivisible security, NATO had staked on unchecked malicious expansion to our frontiers at the detriment of Russia’s security. Our initiative to work out binding agreements that would guarantee the renewed predictability and stability on Russia's western borders and in Europe as a whole was rejected. Russia's forced response to protect its external security contour was used by the United States and NATO as a pretext for moving towards an all-out confrontation with us on the verge of a direct armed conflict. In this environment, it is not possible to talk about total and immediate renunciation of nuclear weapons as it would even more dramatically weaken our national security and rapidly aggravate the threat to the vital interests of Russia.
The nuclear powers' restrained and responsible behaviour is now more important than ever. Russia is firmly committed to the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. On 3 January 2022 this postulate was confirmed by the leaders of the five nuclear powers in a joint statement. This statement also affirms the intent to seek diplomatic approaches in order to avoid military confrontations and strengthen stability and predictability while pursuing constructive dialogue with mutual respect and acknowledgment of each other’s interests. It is important that each of the nuclear-weapon States follow the provisions of this statement in their entirety. As the Ukrainian crisis aggravated, which occurred through the fault of the Kiev regime and its Western patrons, the message of this document acquired additional importance.
We would like to draw attention to the fact that NATO, which openly opposes us, defiantly defines itself as a nuclear alliance. US nuclear weapons are deployed on the territories of non-nuclear allies of the United States. The employment scenarios are being practiced in the course of exercises with engagement of the military personnel from non-nuclear countries. The anti-Russian thrust of such steps is not being concealed while further advancing of these capabilities to our borders is being publicly suggested. Such irresponsible actions increase the strategic risks, including those of nuclear nature, as well as hinder disarmament efforts.
Recent discussions, including at the 10th NPT Review Conference, showed that a growing number of States questioned whether the membership of some European non-nuclear-weapon States in a nuclear alliance was in line with their NPT obligations. There is a concern over the potential projection of "nuclear sharing" practice to other regions of the world, in particular the Asia-Pacific region. Under such circumstances, the task of returning US nuclear weapons to its national territory, eliminating the infrastructure for their deployment in Europe, and ceasing the "nuclear sharing" practice becomes especially relevant.
This concern is getting even more acute with the creation of so called AUKUS “partnership”. The content of this initiative and possible consequences of its implementation raise numerous questions. The emergence of AUKUS provokes tensions and lays down prerequisites for a new round of arms race, and, in all likelihood, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also much wider.
The Russian Federation regards the NPT as the cornerstone of the international security system. We attach great importance to the successful functioning of all three pillars of the Treaty: disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
In recent years, the NPT regime has been put to a severe test. As the established system of arms control agreements has broken down, disagreements between States Parties on Treaty implementation are increasing. The absence of an outcome document of the 10th Review Conference that took place last August is further proof of this. During the work on the draft report, contradictions between delegations on acute issues affecting all three “baskets” of the NPT did not allow consensus to be reached. A number of delegations used the Conference to settle political scores and also demonstrated the inability to take into account the interests of all States Parties, which led to the blocking of the final document.
However, the fact that the States Parties to the Treaty were able to exchange views on the entire range of NPT issues is in itself of great value in the current difficult geopolitical environment.
Russia has been a consistent supporter of the creation in the Middle East of a zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD-free zone). As a co-sponsor of the 1995 resolution adopted at the NPT Review and Extension Conference, our country took every step within its power to seek a compromise between supporters and sceptics of establishing the zone. We are convinced that the establishment of the WMD-free zone will help to strengthen peace and stability both in the Middle East region and throughout the world.
We support the activities of the IAEA as an NPT verification mechanism. We support the universalization of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement as a purely voluntary measure. We note, however, that the safeguards system should remain technically sound, non-politicized and unbiased.
The Russian Federation regards the CTBT as the most important document in the area of nuclear non-proliferation and strictly complies with its provisions. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Treaty's opening for signature. However, the CTBT has not entered into force because of the position of the eight Annex 2 States whose ratification is required for the Treaty to become a functioning international legal instrument. We call on those countries to ratify the Treaty without delay.