Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Head of the Russian Delegation, at the Thematic Debate on “Nuclear Weapons” in the First Committee of the 78th Session of the UNGA

Mr. Chair,

Year in year out, it is the topic of Nuclear Weapons that provokes increasingly heated discussions in the UNGA First Committee, and some relevant draft resolutions are record holders for separate voting. This is one of the clearest indicators of the international community fragmentation on arms control and nuclear disarmament issues. We have to admit that there is no common denominator consolidating States to shape realistic approaches on the way towards a nuclear-free world consistent with NPT Article VI in the entirety of its interrelated elements.

By identifying current negative trends on this track, we consistently draw attention to the problem of insufficient consideration of military-political and strategic realities when it comes to the state of affairs in the field of nuclear disarmament. This is especially appropriate to emphasize within the UNGA First Committee, whose terms of reference include maintaining international peace and security.

There is a clear lack of willingness in multilateral fora to adequately and pragmatically take into account in the disarmament context the state of the security environment, which is not limited to nuclear aspects only. Meanwhile, the relationship between progress towards nuclear disarmament and general situation in the field of international security was obvious back in the days when the authors of the NPT drafted it. They clearly incorporated it into the context of the Treaty, emphasizing in its preamble the need to ease international tensions to facilitate the elimination of all nuclear weapons stockpiles, pursuant to a treaty on general and complete disarmament.

Fundamental understandings regarding the prerequisites necessary to ensure sustainable progress towards nuclear disarmament have been developed and expanded through the NPT review process. A consensus formula was produced stipulating that steps on this track should promote international peace and stability, and be based on the principle of increased and undiminished security for all.

Russia is strongly committed to this approach. We believe that attempts to revise it deprive us of a critical part of the foundation on which joint work on the disarmament track can be built. Therefore, blueprints that presume a “shortcut” to “nuclear zero”, including through simply “outlawing” nuclear weapons, are completely unfeasible. Therefore, we emphasize that initiatives such as the TPNW are counterproductive. While sharing the idea of a nuclear-free world, we are convinced that hasty and uncalibrated steps complicate the achievement of this ultimate goal rather than bring us closer to it.

Further practical results in reducing nuclear weapons are only possible on the basis of a step-by-step approach that requires mandatory consideration of the security needs of all parties. Meanwhile, all States possessing military nuclear capabilities must join the disarmament process. Progress on this path will not be reached either by putting forward ultimatum demands, or by establishing artificial timeframes, or by focusing the main attention on transparency, reporting and verification. First of all, painstaking work is required from all members of the international community to create a climate conducive to disarmament efforts.

In these efforts, an important role is played by both Nuclear and Non-Nuclear-Weapon States which should in practice contribute to an overall reduced level of international tensions, fostering stability and shaping a practicable global disarmament agenda. At the same time, nuclear disarmament should be perceived as part of the general and complete disarmament process in strict compliance with NPT provisions, without isolating individual elements from them.

Russian national policy in the nuclear field is exclusively defensive in nature and aimed at maintaining nuclear forces at a level minimally sufficient to ensure reliable deterrence. Our principled approach is invariably based on the postulate that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Its implementation dictates the need to mitigate the risks of any military confrontation among nuclear powers.

At this stage, possession of nuclear weapons is the only possible response to specific external threats to our country. The Ukrainian crisis, provoked and spurred on by Western countries, has justified our assessments and concerns. Grossly flouting the principle of equal and indivisible security, the United States-led NATO bloc has put a stake on harmful expansion. The goal is to weaken our country as one of the civilizational poles of the emerging polycentric world order that excludes the hegemony of Washington. Ukraine has been ruthlessly and cynically used against Russia as a battering ram, and, in fact, as expendable material.

In response to our forced actions to protect our external security contour, the West switched over to an openly anti-Russian course and to a reckless increase in stakes, dangerously balancing on the brink of direct military confrontation between nuclear powers. Our sobering warnings about emerging strategic risks are ignored or distorted for propaganda purposes. However, in reality, we continue to be strictly guided solely by the logic of deterrence and its fundamental principles.

Under these conditions, further significant reduction of Russia's nuclear arsenal would sharply weaken our national security. In fact, it would turn the idea of a large-scale aggression against our country into a completely realistic option for NATO countries which have a significant advantage in conventional weapons and publicly declare their aspiration to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia.

The destructive policy of the United States has continued to have a detrimental effect on the architecture of arms control agreements which has already been largely destroyed by Washington, either by directly breaking a number of fundamental treaties, or by creating conditions under which their implementation ceases to meet security interests of the other side. Given the abolition of the INF Treaty and suspension of the New START Treaty, Russia is taking a number of measures in order to maintain predictability and stability in the nuclear missile field. We continue to adhere to the central limits provided for by the New START and notify the United States of upcoming ICBM and SLBM launches. We observe a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of ground-based intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, which is, however, under serious pressure due to the United States’ active preparations for the deployment of such weapons in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Against the backdrop of a general growth of threats from NATO, we cannot ignore the factor of the total nuclear arsenal of the countries of the North Atlantic bloc, which have declared themselves a “nuclear alliance”. The very fact that the United States retains in Europe its nuclear weapons intended for promptly striking a wide spectrum of targets in the territory of Russia is already a subject of serious concern. At the same time, continued development of the NATO “nuclear sharing” practice under the current circumstances forces us to take compensatory measures. In order to break the vicious circle of actions and counter-actions, the nuclear weapons of the United States should be completely withdrawn to the territory of the United States, and the relevant infrastructure in Europe – totally eliminated.

Washington’s steps to spread the patterns of “joint nuclear planning” to the Asia-Pacific region where the United States and its allies already practice the so-called “extended nuclear deterrence” have also a clearly negative projection to the regional and global security.

The strategic stability and prospects of nuclear disarmament continue to be negatively affected by the unrestricted development of the global US missile defence system, which includes the implementation of the extremely destabilizing “left-of-launch” concept and build-up of high-precision non-nuclear weapons for the tasks of decapitating and disarming “global strikes.”

Likewise, arms control cannot be implemented without taking into account the general politico-military and military-strategic situation. The potential for progress here depends directly on the situation in the field of international security and strategic stability. Therefore, absolutely unrealistic are the calls for the immediate launch of nuclear arms control negotiations with their compartmentalization from the present-day realities and state of relations among nuclear powers, including the gravest conflict in the Euro-Atlantic fraught with further escalation.

We are certain that arms control is destined to consolidate reciprocal demonstration of political will to reduce tensions and promote long-term stability based on mutual respect for the fundamental security interests. We do not observe such aspirations from the side of the Western countries now. Nevertheless, we do believe that arrangements in the area of arms control, which can take various forms, are capable of becoming a significant element of efforts to build renewed and more credible security architecture.

These issues should be addressed as part of holistic work aimed at a comprehensive and sustainable decrease in the level of international proneness to conflicts. While doing it, we need to consider the whole array of relevant factors in their interrelationship and focus, primarily, on removing the root causes of the controversy existing between Nuclear-Weapon States in the area of security. Such an interaction should be carried out strictly on the basis of equality, multipolarity and indivisible security principles.

Mr. Chair,

The Russian Federation considers the NPT as the cornerstone of international security architecture. Apart from nuclear disarmament, we also attach great importance to successful operation of two other fundamental pillars of the Treaty: non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Recently, the NPT regime has been going through serious tests, and controversy has been growing among the States Parties concerning the issues of the implementation of the Treaty. It was demonstrated at the 10th NPT Review Conference RevCon in 2022 as well as during the First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 11th RevCon. The gravest risks arise from a number of States, primarily the United States and its allies, being active in using the Treaty itself as well as its review process to achieve their narrow self-interested political goals that have nothing to do with nuclear non-proliferation.

Russia considers the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs) as an important tool of enhancement of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and regional and international security and stability. By signing and ratifying corresponding protocols to the treaties on non-nuclear zones, we provide the participants of such zones with the security assurances against nuclear weapons use or threat of use (negative security assurances – NSAs). At the same time, the signing of such documents is accompanied from our side by traditional reservations which are tools that allow to guarantee the compliance by the NWFZs participating States with the agreements concluded by them.

Regarding the unconditional provision of NSAs to all non-nuclear countries, we would like to note that recently questions are being raised as for the expediency and possibility to provide such assurances to Non-Nuclear-Weapon States which are part of politico-military blocs and partnerships with Nuclear-Weapon States, and, moreover, to the members of NATO military nuclear bloc.

Russia is a consistent advocate of the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of nuclear weapons and other types of WMD (MENWMDFZ).
A co-sponsor of the 1995 resolution adopted at the NPT Review and Extension Conference, our country took every possible step dependent upon it to search for a compromise between those advocating the establishment of the zone and those being sceptical about it. We are convinced that the establishment of the MENWMDFZ will contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the Middle East and in the world as a whole.

We support the IAEA safeguards system as the NPT verification mechanism. We stand for the universalization of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement as an exclusively voluntary measure. At the same time, we note that the system of safeguards should preserve its unbiased, de-politicized, technically justified character and be based on the agreements between States themselves and IAEA.

Our country actively participated in the development of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), was one of the first to sign the Treaty and ratify it in 2000. For 23 long years, Russia waited patiently for the United States to take a similar step. We have tirelessly urged it to reconsider its negative attitude towards the Treaty. However, no action was taken on the part of Washington to resolve the issue positively. Today it is absolutely clear to us that the United States, in principle, does not set itself the task of ratifying the CTBT. All talk about the impossibility of ratification in Congress is only a justification for the destructive line regarding the Treaty. Having failed to ratify the CTBT, Washington enjoys all its advantages and even allows itself to dictate to the parties to the Treaty how it should be implemented.

All patience comes to an end. Currently, a bill to revoke Russian ratification of the CTBT is being prepared. This step will allow us to balance our status under the Treaty with the United States. At the same time, we would like to emphasize that withdrawal of ratification does not mean that our country intends to resume nuclear testing. As Russian President Vladimir V. Putin stated in his message to the Federal Assembly on February 21, 2023, we will not be the first to conduct nuclear tests. Responsibility for how the situation will develop in this area lies entirely with the United States.

Thank you.