Remarks At the U.S. Institute for Peace

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Renaissance Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC
October 21, 2009

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Thank you. Thank you very much. It's a great honor to be introduced by Ambassador Moose. George and I have had the privilege of working together in the past, and I look forward to his good advice and counsel as we move forward on many of these important matters. I want to thank Ambassador Solomon. Dick has done an extraordinary job, as you all know, both in his prior incarnation with the State Department and now, of course, with the United States Institute of Peace. And Tara, thank you for your leadership and your commitment to these issues.

This is an audience that has many familiar faces in it, people who have been on the frontlines of American foreign policy on conflict resolution and so many specific issues. And I want to particularly just thank two people who have really stepped up to assume new responsibilities on behalf of the Obama Administration, someone who was on the board of USIP, now Under Secretary Maria Otero, and also Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher who - both of whom I'm delighted are part of the team at the State Department. (Applause.) And sitting right there in the front row is one of my role models, Betty Bumpers, who started beating the drums for world peace and for an end to much of the behavior that is so troublesome and threatening between nations. And I am so pleased to see her.

It's an honor to have been asked to give this second annual Dean Acheson lecture. The Institute has many friends at the State Department and we're looking forward to the day when we're not only friends, but neighbors. I know that your new building across the street will allow for even closer cooperation as we work together to build peace and end conflict. I also know that Monday marked your 25th anniversary, and I thank you for the extraordinary work and leadership you've provided over the last two and a half decades, including the work you've done to review our nuclear posture.

The Institute has helped drive the foreign policy debate on nuclear weapons, on conflict prevention and many other critical issues, and you are continuing that essential role. Now, some of you may recall that Secretary Gates' remarks on this occasion last year when he argued eloquently - and I might add, very convincingly - for providing additional resources to the State Department was a signal event. To have the Secretary of Defense come before a distinguished audience like this and to argue very forcefully on behalf of our civilian capacity is still reverberating throughout Washington.

In advocating a budget increase for a department other than his own, Secretary Gates said he was returning a favor, because as Secretary of State, Dean Acheson had argued that the United States needed a strong military when cutbacks threatened to gut U.S. forces after the Second World War. Acheson was involved in another vital foreign policy issue where his position transcended bureaucratic allegiances, and his actions provide a useful historical backdrop for my subject today.

At the close of World War II, Acheson was serving as Under Secretary of State. Secretary of State - or Secretary of War Henry Stimson was the country's leading advocate for nuclear arms control. But Stimson had a tough opponent in then-Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, who wanted to leverage the United States's nuclear advantage to the maximum extent possible. Acheson looked beyond the confines of his bureaucracy and joined with the Secretary of War in favor of arms control. He recognized that the world was at a crossroads. And he saw that the United States had an obligation and an interest in working with other nations to curb the spread of the most dangerous weapons in history.

Well, today, we find ourselves at yet another crossroads. During the Cold War, we feared an all-out nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. And in October 1962, the world came close. But President Kennedy realized that a nuclear war was profoundly unwinnable. And over time, he and successive administrations took steps to mitigate that risk and curtail the spread of nuclear weapons.

We now face a different kind of threat, a threat that is more diffuse and perhaps even more dangerous. The range and intensity of current nuclear proliferation challenges is alarming. The international community failed to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. We are now engaged in diplomatic efforts to roll back this development. Iran continues to ignore resolutions from the United Nations Security Council demanding that it suspend its enrichment activities and live up to those international obligations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't have the tools or authority to carry out its mission effectively. We saw this in the institution's failure to detect Iran's covert enrichment plant and Syria's reactor project. Illicit state and non-state proliferation networks are engaging in sensitive nuclear trade and circumventing laws designed to protect us against the export and import of nuclear materials.

Working through Senator Lugar's Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, we have deactivated or destroyed thousands of nuclear weapons. But vast stocks of potentially dangerous nuclear materials remain vulnerable to theft or diversion. With growing global energy needs and the threat of climate change, the demand for nuclear power is expanding, and we do need to continue to facilitate the legitimate peaceful use of nuclear energy. Yet, this expansion has not been accompanied by corresponding measures that could reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation.

We also know that unless these trends are reversed, and reversed soon, we will find ourselves in a world with a steadily growing number of nuclear-armed states, and increasing likelihood of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons.

President Obama recognizes this danger. In April, in Prague, he presented the United States' vision for how to meet these challenges. He reinforced the core bargain of the global nonproliferation regime, calling on all states to live up to their responsibilities and put down a marker for every nation when he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. And last month, when President Obama became the first United States President to chair a session of the United Nations Security Council, he presided over the unanimous passage of a resolution that set forth a robust nonproliferation and arms control agenda.

Pursuing these goals is not an act of starry-eyed idealism or blind allegiance to principle. It is about taking responsibility to prevent the use of the world's most dangerous weapons, and holding others accountable as well. The policies that take us there must be up to the task: tough, smart, and driven by the core interests of the United States. As the President has acknowledged, we might not achieve the ambition of a world without nuclear weapons in our lifetime or successive lifetimes. But we believe that pursuing this vision will enhance our national security and international stability.

We also believe that the United States must maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies and partners while we pursue our vision.

All countries have an obligation to help address the challenges posed by nuclear weapons, beginning with the nuclear weapons states. As the permanent members of the Security Council and the only nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT, we all have a responsibility to stop the erosion of the nonproliferation regime and to address the current crisis of compliance in which some countries apparently feel they can violate their obligations and defy the Security Council with impunity.

The non-nuclear weapon states also have a responsibility to work to prevent further proliferation. That responsibility does not end with their decision to forgo their own weapons ambitions and accept safeguards to demonstrate the sincerity of that decision. It must continue with active participation in resolute efforts to impede additional countries from crossing the nuclear threshold, because their own security and well-being are profoundly affected by the outcome of such efforts.

All states with nuclear materials or technology have a responsibility to protect them against theft or illicit transfer. Now if all countries step up to these responsibilities, as we are doing, we can revitalize the nonproliferation regime for decades to come. The cornerstone of that regime, the NPT, remains sound and need not be altered. But as we have done for 40 years, we must build on that essential foundation by supplementing the treaty and updating the overall regime with measures designed to confront emerging challenges.

The Administration's blueprint for our efforts is based on the hard, day-to-day work of active diplomacy - confronting proliferators, strengthening the capabilities of the IAEA and ensuring that all nations abide by the rights and obligations of the nonproliferation regime, negotiating a new treaty with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenal, seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and prompt negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, undertaking a review of the role of nuclear weapons in the United States's defense strategy, and supporting budgetary priorities that guarantee the safety and effectiveness of our deterrent.

Now, I am well aware of the difficult road ahead to uphold the NPT, restore the international nonproliferation consensus, and reinvigorate the global nonproliferation regime. Progress will not be easy. At times, our achievements may seen incomplete and unsatisfying, but we are committed to seeing this through, and we believe the world is depending on our success. The reality is that the nuclear threat cannot be checked by us acting alone. Whether we seek to prevent the smuggling of dangerous nuclear materials, establish a new international framework for civil nuclear energy cooperation, increase the IAEA's budget, or persuade governments with nuclear weapons ambitions to abandon their quest, we can only achieve our goals through cooperation with others. In recent years, however, polarization within the international community on proliferation issues between states with nuclear weapons and those without have created obstacles to the cooperation that is needed.

Overcoming these obstacles must start from the premise that the nuclear threat is a danger that all nations face together, and that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is not just in the interests of the existing nuclear weapon states, as it is sometimes asserted. Indeed, the non-nuclear weapon states have as much or more to lose if these weapons spread or are ever used again. The same logic applies to our work to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism. A nuclear terrorist bomb detonated anywhere in the world would have vast economic, political, ecological and social consequences everywhere in the world.

It's easy to advocate a go-it-alone approach that ignores the cooperation needed to address universal challenges. But we have seen the failed results of this approach. The more difficult, but more productive path is to engage our allies and partners around the world in that hard work of diplomacy. Because as President Obama has said, we must pursue a path that is grounded in the rights and responsibilities of all nations. We must continue to strengthen each of the three mutually reinforcing pillars of global nonproliferation - preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, promoting disarmament, and facilitating the peaceful use of nuclear energy. And to those three pillars, we should add a fourth: preventing nuclear terrorism. Stopping terrorists from acquiring the ultimate weapon was not a central preoccupation when the NPT was negotiated, but today, it is, and it must remain at the top of our national security priorities.

As we advance this agenda, we can reduce the size and scope of the proliferation threat to our nation, our children, and future generations. The U.S.-led diplomatic campaign began with countering immediate proliferation threats, and will seek over time to improve verification, stiffen penalties, disrupt illicit proliferation networks, reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism, and allow nations to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear power, while deploying safeguards against proliferation.

Thwarting the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran is critical to shoring up the nonproliferation regime. Within the framework of the six-party talks, we are prepared to meet bilaterally with North Korea, but North Korea's return to the negotiating table is not enough. Current sanctions will not be relaxed until Pyongyang takes verifiable, irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization. Its leaders should be under no illusion that the United States will ever have normal, sanctions-free relations with a nuclear armed North Korea.

Together with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, the United States is pursuing a dual-track approach toward Iran. If Iran is serious about taking practical steps to address the international community's deep concerns about its nuclear program, we will continue to engage both multilaterally and bilaterally to discuss the full range of issues that have divided Iran and the United States for too long. The door is open to a better future for Iran, but the process of engagement cannot be open-ended. We are not prepared to talk just for the sake of talking.

As President Obama noted after the October 1st meeting in Geneva, we appear to have made a constructive beginning, but that needs to be followed up by constructive actions. In particular, prompt action is needed on implementing the plan to use Iran's own low-enriched uranium to refuel the Tehran research reactor, which is used to produce medical isotopes.

Enhancing the IAEA's capabilities to verify whether states are engaging in illicit nuclear activity is essential to strengthening the nonproliferation regime. The IAEA's additional protocol, which allows for more aggressive, short-notice inspections should be made universal, through concerted efforts to persuade key holdout states to join.

Our experience with Iraq's nuclear program before the 1991 Gulf War showed that the IAEA's rights and resources needed upgrading. The additional protocol is the embodiment of those lessons. A failure to make this protocol the global standard means the world will have failed to heed the lessons of history at our collective peril. The IAEA should make full use of existing verification authorities, including special inspections. But it should also be given new authorities, including the ability to investigate suspected nuclear weapons-related activities even when no nuclear materials are present. And if we expect the IAEA to be a bulwark of the nonproliferation regime, we must give it the resources necessary to do the job.

Improving the IAEA's ability to detect safeguard violations is not enough. Potential violators must know that if they are caught, they will pay a high price. That is certainly not the case today. Despite American efforts, the international community's record of enforcing compliance in recent years is unacceptable. Compliance mechanisms and procedures must be improved. We should consider adopting automatic penalties for violation of safeguards agreements; for example, suspending all international nuclear cooperation, or IAEA technical cooperation projects until compliance has been restored.

And because the role of the Security Council is so important on compliance issues, we are working to rebuild the consensus among the five permanent members on NPT enforcement.

We must also use financial and legal tools to better disrupt illicit proliferation networks. This will mean tightening controls on transshipment, a key source of illicit trade, and strengthening Nuclear Suppliers Group restrictions on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technology. A reinvigorated nonproliferation regime should enable countries, especially developing countries, to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy, while providing incentives for them not to build their own enrichment or reprocessing facilities. These facilities are inherently capable of producing both fuel for nuclear reactors and the fissile cores of nuclear weapons and should not be allowed to proliferate.

But we need to ensure that states have access to nuclear fuel, a right guaranteed under the NPT. The best way to accomplish this goal is by expanding fuel cycle options. Multilateral fuel supply assurances, international fuel banks, and spent fuel repositories can enhance the confidence of states embarking on or expanding their nuclear power programs. These initiatives will encourage countries to pursue legitimate civil nuclear plans without assuming the risk and expense of constructing their own fuel cycle facilities. So we will support international fuel banks and effective fuel service arrangements as key components of our nonproliferation policy.

Now, we cannot divorce nonproliferation efforts from the challenge of reducing existing nuclear arsenals, both are part of the core bargain of the NPT. All countries face a common danger from nuclear weapons, but the nuclear arms states, and especially the United States and Russia, have an obligation to reduce their weapons stockpiles. And the Obama Administration is actively pursuing these steps. We are negotiating an agreement with the Russians that will succeed the soon-to-expire START treaty, and significantly reduce the nuclear forces of both sides. It will also set the stage for even deeper cuts in the future.

Let me be clear: the United States is interested in a new START agreement because it will bolster our national security. We and Russia deploy far more nuclear weapons than we need or could ever potentially use without destroying our ways of life. We can reduce our stockpiles of nuclear weapons without posing any risk to our homeland, our deployed troops or our allies.

Clinging to nuclear weapons in excess of our security needs does not make the United States safer. And the nuclear status quo is neither desirable nor sustainable. It gives other countries the motivation or the excuse to pursue their own nuclear options.

The right way to reduce our excess nuclear forces is in parallel with Russia. Verifiable mutual reductions through a new START treaty will help us build trust and avoid surprises. We are working hard to ensure that the new agreement will continue to allow for inspections and other mechanisms that allow us to build confidence. We are under no illusions that the START agreement will persuade Iran and North Korea to end their illicit nuclear activities. But it will demonstrate that the United States is living up to its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to work toward nuclear disarmament. In doing so, it will help convince the rest of the international community to strengthen nonproliferation controls and tighten the screws on states that flout that their nonproliferation commitments.

For the same reason, the United States seeks to begin negotiations as soon as possible on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty with appropriate monitoring and verification provisions. A universal FMCT will halt the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes, capping the size of existing arsenals, and reducing the risk that terrorist groups will one day gain access to stockpiles of fissile materials.

But we must do more than reduce the numbers of our nuclear weapons. We must also reduce the role they play in our security. In this regard, the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review will be a key milestone. It will more accurately calibrate the role, size, and composition of our nuclear stockpile to the current and future international threat environments. And it will provide a fundamental reassessment of U.S. nuclear force posture, levels, and doctrine. Carried out in consultation with our allies, it will examine the role of nuclear weapons in deterring today's threats and review our declaratory policies with respect to the circumstances in which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons.

As part of the NPR, the Nuclear Posture Review, we are grappling with key questions: What is the fundamental purpose of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal? Will our deterrence posture help the United States encourage others to reduce their arsenals and advance our nonproliferation agenda? How can we provide reassurance to our allies in a manner that reinforces our nonproliferation objectives?

We believe now is the time for a look - a fresh look at the views on the role of the United States nuclear weapons arsenal. We can't afford to continue relying on recycled Cold War thinking. We are sincere in our pursuit of a secure peaceful world without nuclear weapons. But until we reach that point of the horizon where the last nuclear weapon has been eliminated, we need to reinforce the domestic consensus that America will maintain the nuclear infrastructure needed to sustain a safe and effective deterrent without nuclear testing.

So in addition to supporting a robust nuclear complex budget in 2011, we will also support a new Stockpile Management Program that would focus on sustaining capabilities. This is what the military leaders, charged with responsibility for our strategic deterrent, need in order to defend our country. General Chilton, Commander of U.S. STRATCOM, has said repeatedly that he doesn't need new nuclear weapons capabilities - but he must be confident in the capabilities that we have.

As we establish that confidence through Stockpile Management, we are making preparations for securing Senate approval for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and working globally to convince other hold-out states to bring that treaty into force. Bringing the treaty into force will strengthen and reenergize the global nonproliferation regime and, in doing so, enhance our own security.

For almost two decades, and over four successive administrations, the United States has observed a moratorium on nuclear testing. So we are already honoring the fundamental obligation of the treaty. A test ban treaty that has entered into force will allow the United States and others to challenge states engaged in suspicious testing activities - including the option of calling on-site inspections to be sure that no testing occurs anywhere. CTBT ratification would also encourage the international community to move forward with other essential nonproliferation steps. And make no mistake, other states - rightly or wrongly - view American ratification of the CTBT as a sign of our commitment to the nonproliferation consensus.

In coming months, several important events can accelerate progress on our nonproliferation and arms control agenda. In April, President Obama will host a global summit on nuclear security, an unprecedented gathering that will help promote a common understanding of the threat of nuclear terrorism and build international support for effective means of countering that threat. The following month, the NPT Review Conference, held every five years, will seek a consensus among NPT parties on a program of work for strengthening the NPT regime. We hope that these meetings will provide a launching pad for our global efforts to address this challenge.

The nuclear threats facing the international community today cannot be overstated. They pose a grave challenge. And as with other global threats, most notably climate change, we are all in the same boat. Unless we act decisively and act now, the situation may deteriorate catastrophically and irreversibly.

Some experts looking at current nuclear threats and the pressures bearing down on the global nonproliferation regime have come to pessimistic conclusions about our nuclear future. They talk about nuclear cascades and terrorists getting their hands on the bomb. According to them, future proliferation is inevitable; stopping it is futile.

Further proliferation and nuclear terrorism are not foregone conclusions. These dangers can be impeded and even prevented. But countering these threats requires us to realize that all states have a common interest in reinvigorating the nonproliferation regime - and that all states bear a responsibility in advancing that effort.

Dean Acheson recognized these truths in his day. They have not dimmed with the passage of time. And the United States will do all it can to carry on this work, and ensure that our efforts succeed.

As we stand at this new crossroads our path forward is clear. It is a path that leads from the streets of Prague, through the milestones I've spoken of today, and eventually, some day, to a world without nuclear weapons.

Just as Acheson did in his time, we must meet this challenge by acting boldly, wisely, hopefully, and in concert with other nations. And once again, if we do so, American leadership will ensure our security and the peace of future generations.

Thank you all very much.


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