Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Deputy Head of delegation of the Russian Federation K.Vorontsov in the First Committee of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly at the Thematic Debate on «Conventional Weapons»

Mr. Chair,

Russia is one of the most active Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). We call for further strengthening of its regime, via universalization of the Convention and its Protocols as well as implementation in good faith of their provisions.

We note with satisfaction that after a long pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, a full-fledged work within the CCW has resumed this year. Sessions of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE on LAWS), the Preparatory Committee for the Sixth Review Conference, as well as meetings of experts under Amended Protocol II and Protocol V have been held in in-person format, which we have consistently advocated.

We hope for the successful preparation and holding of the Sixth CCW RevCon. We are set for interaction with all State Parties in order to make mutually acceptable decisions.

We continue to believe that consideration of new topics in the framework of the CCW should be approached in a sensible manner, taking into account the balance between humanitarian concerns and the legitimate defense interests of States. Such approach is particularly relevant against the background of active attempts of certain countries and civil society representatives to appeal to humanitarian aspects as the only absolutely sufficient condition for imposing restrictions and prohibitions on specific types of conventional weapons.

The Russian Federation assumes that norms of international law including international humanitarian law fully apply to emerging technologies in the area of LAWS, and are sufficient. There is no need for their modernization or adaptation given the specifics of these weapon systems. The mentioned systems, their technical characteristics and features resulting from their autonomous capabilities as well as their use during combat operations must comply with the principles (enshrined, in particular, in the CCW Preamble) of the civilian protection against the effects of hostilities, superfluous injury (including long-term and severe damage to the natural environment) or unnecessary suffering. Moreover, the use of LAWS should meet the adequacy and proportionality criteria.

Since prototypes of such systems are non-existent and LAWS basic characteristics and conceptual frameworks remain uncertain and, moreover, there is a considerable divergence in positions among State Parties. Under these conditions any precipitate steps may only damage scientific and technological progress in areas related to information technology, artificial intelligence, peaceful robotics, etc. At this stage, we see no necessity for a legally binding instrument on such systems containing a ban or a moratorium on their development, use and related technologies. We believe that instead the dedicated GGE, which, in our opinion, is the best platform to discuss LAWS issues, could focus on analyzing existing international legal norms.

The discussion on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA) is in the focus of our attention. We are convinced that one has to be cautious when it comes to elaboration of some «political declarations» on the prohibition of this type of weapons. Such weapons may be later used in order to discredit any military operation that employs explosive weapons as well as to pigeonhole those weapons into categories of «acceptable» and «unacceptable».

Any issues related to use of explosive weapons can be solved through implementation in good faith of already existing provision of international legal instruments, first of all, of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as well as the active engagement of political and diplomatic means of resolving armed conflicts. We consider the existing legal regulation sufficient, inter alia in order to neutralize humanitarian risks associated with the use of this type of weapons. The solution to the problems regarding use of explosive weapons lies exclusively in the implementation of the already existing norms of IHL in good faith. 

We note that the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), posing the most significant humanitarian threat in the modern world, has, unfortunately, only increased over the recent years. The statistics of the Russian Engineering Troops obtained on the territory of Syria clearly confirms it: a third of all explosive devices neutralized by our military were precisely IEDs. 

Relevant UNGA and UNSC resolutions represent the basis for coordination of internationalefforts to counter IEDs. We fully support further discussion of the IEDs topic within the CCW Amended Protocol II. We proceed from the fact that these efforts should be consistent with the subject and purposes of the Convention.

Mr. Chair, 

We attach great importance to the issue of illicit traffic of conventional weapons. We stand for a more efficient implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, which aims to reliably curb transfers into illicit trade. This work requires concerted efforts of the entire international community with the UN playing the central role.

We pay great attention to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms as one of the key mechanisms for ensuring transparency and international security through tracking and detection of destabilizing stockpiles of arms in some regions of the world. At the same time, we are cautious about attempts of a number of States to expand the scope of the Register, taking into account the past precedents when this mechanism was used for non-prescribed purposes, such as by defining the parameters of the arms embargo imposed by the UN SC.

We still believe it is inadvisable to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty in its current form and participate, even as observers, in official events held under its auspices. We assume that the Treaty-established standards are way below the Russian ones. The Practical implementation of the Treaty raises serious questions. It is unacceptable when its individual State Parties continue supplying military products directly or indirectly to the zones of armed conflicts.

Thank you.