Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Mr.Dmitry Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, during General Debate at the UN Disarmament Commission 2018 session

Dear Madam Chair,

First of all, let me congratulate you on your election to this responsible position and express the hope that under your able leadership we will manage to maintain the positive momentum in the work of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) that was developed during the previous session.

Russia is a consistent supporter of the consolidation of the UN central role in maintaining strategic stability and international security and the strengthening of the arms control and non-proliferation regimes. We firmly believe that our priority is to comprehensively strengthen the UN disarmament machinery with the UNDC being its integral part.

This year the UNDC starts a new three-year work cycle with a new agenda. We are to continue our work on reaching agreement upon recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as well as initiate discussion on a brand-new subject – developing recommendations on facilitating practical implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities with the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space. As usual, the Russian delegation is willing to exert maximum efforts in order to achieve results in both areas.

As a responsible and consistent supporter of nuclear disarmament and the noble objective of building a nuclear weapons-free world, Russia continues to make its special contribution to this process. On 5 February 2018 we confirmed that our country had fully complied with its obligations under START on reducing such weapons: our overall capacity turned out to be even lower than the limits on carriers and warheads provided for by the Treaty. Thus, Russia cut its nuclear arsenal by over 85 per cent as compared to its stockpiles at the height of the Cold War.

We are convinced that the efforts of the international community with respect to nuclear disarmament should at this stage focus on creating conditions for further advances in this area. On the one hand, it is necessary to involve in the efforts aimed at reducing and limiting nuclear weapons all States possessing military nuclear potential. On the other hand, systematic collective efforts to create favourable conditions for continuing nuclear disarmament process including ensuring both global and regional security are gaining particular relevance.

To this end, it is necessary to take into account the whole range of factors that influence international stability including the unlimited deployment of the U.S. global missile defense, the development of high-precision non-nuclear strategic offensive weapons, the U.S. reluctance to abandon plans of deploying strike weapons in outer space, the increasing qualitative and quantitative imbalances in conventional arms, etc.

In this context, we are particularly concerned about the fact that some States develop doctrinal documents, which provide for a significantly increased role of nuclear weapons in military planning while establishing a sharp lower threshold for their use. The continuing practice of so called NATO nuclear sharing missions when non-nuclear NATO Member States are trained to apply nuclear weapons in direct violation of the NPT is considered unacceptable. Such developments raise the risk of a nuclear conflict.

We learn from history that attempts to strengthen one's security at the expense of the security of others are, a priori, doomed to failure. A dialogue is needed ensuring that such notions as equal rights, mutual respect and consensus are not only declared, but also applied. Only such approach makes it possible to find mutually acceptable balance of interest and ensure that key international security issues are taken into account. We are ready for such dialogue.

In the context of heightened international military and political tensions, in order to prevent the most dangerous scenarios and preserve strategic balance, we were obliged to take technical military measures announced by the President of Russia in his Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018. It is particularly noteworthy that all work towards enhancing defense capacity of the country has been done and is being done in strict compliance with existing arms control agreements.

Moving towards elimination of nuclear weapons is neither possible without due account of all factors that impact strategic stability and principles of ensuring equal security for all. This objective cannot be reached using the methods set out in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recently opened for signature.

This initiative not only fails to facilitate progress towards the objective of creating a nuclear-free world that we totally share, but rather causes problems with securing viability and effectiveness of the fundamental Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). An international agreement of this kind may become relevant when it comes to ensuring irreversibility of nuclear disarmament process. In the meantime, raising the issue of immediate total nuclear disarmament is clearly premature.

The situation surrounding the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains a matter of serious concern to us because one of the key States withdrew from the ratification and support of entry into force of this instrument. In the current circumstances the CTBT apparently requires more than ever the support and assistance of the entire international community. More active work is needed to promote the Treaty at all levels and in various formats.

We are pleased that participants of the first session of the Preparatory Committee (PC-1) for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) generally reaffirmed their commitment to work together to ensure sustainability and universalization of the NPT, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its opening for signature. At a time of increased tensions on a variety of issues of the Treaty agenda the focus should be made on preserving its regime and implementing the decisions of the previous Review Conferences.     

We believe that the balanced approach to the consideration of three components of the NPT, namely non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful use of the atomic energy, with an emphasis on maintaining and strengthening the international stability, peace and security, has no alternative. We assume that, during the current review cycle, the 2010 NPT Action Plan, that remains fully relevant, could serve the basis for the work.

Russia has been and remains committed to its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Last year, we completed the destruction of our chemical arsenal, ahead of the agreed deadlines. The destruction of the Russian chemical weapons was confirmed by the OPCW.

In this regard, any insinuations that Russia still possesses or continues to develop chemical weapons, and references to the alleged "Russian trace" in the "Skripal affair" are absolutely groundless and absurd. If States that drop or support such accusations have evidence of Russia's involvement in such incidents, then it must be presented. We believe that reacting to such groundless accusations and insinuations is useless and pointless. As you know, we have sent a list of specific questions to the British government and we are waiting for specific answers to those questions. We do not expect the responses in terms of “highly likely”. Otherwise, we will presume that this is a deliberate provocation by the US and the UK intelligence services.

Keeping outer space free from weapons and use of force remains one of our most important foreign policy priorities. We consider this task equally, if not more significant than the total elimination of nuclear weapons. What is more important it is practically realizable.

In order to reach the objectives of prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) we have to work on a number of areas at the same time.

We continue to consider the Russia-China draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and the threat or use of force against outer space objects (PPWT) as a key initiative. After Russia, together with China, submitted a new version of the PPWT at the Conference on disarmament (CD) in June 2014, the project had already become a full-fledged multilateral initiative reflecting approaches of all responsible UN nations. Despite the considerable international support and interest in developing this instrument, we are still unable to launch a substantive work on it due to difficulties to agree on the CD programme of work, which is regrettable.

In order to make the PAROS discussions more substantive, last year, we, together with our Chinese colleagues, proposed to establish the UN Group of Governmental Experts on PAROS. The approval of the relevant Russia-China resolution by the UNGA in December 2017 opened up real possibilities to create a serious groundwork for the transition to negotiations regarding the international agreement on PAROS based on the PPWT. 

In accordance with the mandate, within the two-session timeframe the Group will review the elements of a possible legally binding agreement on PAROS, including in the field of preventing the placement of weapons in outer space.

We cannot fail to mention the efforts being made in the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in Vienna to develop a set of guidelines for ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities.

We believe that the UNDC is also able to make a significant and invaluable contribution to these multilateral efforts in accordance with its mandate. We consider the preparation of recommendations for the practical implementation of Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, which could be used to prevent an arms race in outer space, the ultimate goal of the activities of the relevant UNDC Working group. We hope that we will succeed in it.

 Madam Chair,

Let me conclude by reiterating the Russian delegation’s determination to most close cooperation.

Thank you.