November 1995

AMBASSADOR RALPH EARLE II, DEPUTY DIRECTOR
U.S. ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT AGENCY
REMARKS TO THE ARMS CONTROL AND VERIFICATION
CONFERENCE, THE JOHN GOODWIN TOWER CENTER
FOR POLITICAL STUDIES, SOUTHERN METHODIST
UNIVERSITY, DALLAS, TEXAS

"The Challenges of Multilateral Arms Control"

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I am delighted to be here in Texas for the SMU Arms Control and Verification Conference, but as I look around the room and see so many familiar faces, I feel that we could just as well be in Geneva or New York as we are in Dallas. I hope that with a generous amount of Texas hospitality and the genteel civility of an academic symposium that our deliberations these two days can in fact advance our understanding of and commitment to arms control as one important mechanism for enhancing international peace and security.

You know, Mr. Chairman, if you will permit me a personal comment, I have had the honor of leading U.S. delegations to two sets of seminal arms control negotiations in my career, SALT II and the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. I have reflected on the nature of these two experiences on many occasions since May 12, the concluding day of the NPT Conference. Both the SALT talks and the NPT Conference were successful exercises; both elicited widely divergent interpretations of their potential impact; and both were but way stations to further significant progress in the arms control field. The biggest difference between them, of course, is that SALT II was essentially a bilateral affair with extensive allied involvement while the NPT Conference was gloriously multilateral. That difference is important, for it is likely that the future challenge of arms control will be mainly, though obviously not exclusively, to elaborate and sustain multilateral agreements involving disparate members of the international community.

My contention in this talk this morning is that though the arms control agenda that lies ahead of us may well be largely multilateral in nature, we must still reflect on such Cold War exercises as the SALT II talks to understand how, why, and when arms control can succeed. It is my further contention that the NPT Conference demonstrated the validity of these lessons and their applicability to a multilateral context. And, finally, I will argue that the post Cold War will require us all -- NWS and NNWS alike -- to take new approaches and adopt new attitudes towards arms control in light of these new realities. In my view, we already have evidence that the United States, under the Clinton Administration, is undertaking this new approach.

Multilateral diplomacy has, of course, always been part of the arms control agenda. During the Cold War, the Antarctic Treaty, the Partial Test Ban, the NPT, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the MBFR/CFE exercises entailed the collective efforts of many States, representing many interests. Nevertheless, the Cold War arms control process focused primarily on the bilateral interactions of the world's two superpowers, the United States and the USSR, for a breakdown in the stability of that relationship threatened the stability, indeed the very survival, of all mankind.

It is instructive to recall the fits and starts that bilateral arms control endured during a critical time period in the Cold War. After the failure of The Baruch Plan in the late forties, the disarmament postures of the US-USSR focused on multi-staged plans to achieve General and Complete Disarmament (GCD), but each side's proposals invariably contained totally unacceptable elements from the others point of view. For an entire decade the two superpowers talked past each other in a dialogue of the deaf and little to no progress ensued. Not until the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, and especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis, did the two sides shift their sights from rhetorical posturing on GCD to focusing on practical, intermediate steps that could reduce the dangers of war by accident, reduce the costs of the arms race, and build the level of trust between the competitors. The Partial Test Ban, the NPT, and the SALT talks were the principal products of this shift to what came to be called the partial steps approach to arms control. Subsequently, these accords paved the way for more extensive agreements later on.

However, from the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 to the INF accord in 1986, it took 27 years before the two sides could reach an agreement actually to eliminate a category of weapons that had played a central role in the bilateral balance. But from 1988 to today, the United States and the USSR/Russia have accelerated the abolition of weapons to cover over 60 percent of their strategic stockpiles, and with full implementation of the START II Treaty in 2003, they will have drawn down over 80 percent of their nuclear warheads. John Tower, who inspired this conference, would indeed take satisfaction in the deep cuts that the two sides have realized and the continued cutbacks they are pledged to make in START II and beyond. The Clinton Administration hopes that this momentum can be maintained and that more opportunities lie ahead in the near future to scale back nuclear arsenals of the world's largest Nuclear Weapon States (NWS).

When President Kennedy announced the U.S. signature to the Partial Test Ban, he referred to the thousand mile journey that would lead to disarmament. We are travelers still on that road, but in Kennedy's time, there was also fear that, sooner rather than later, there would not only be two or five but in fact what was called "a whole world of nuclear weapon states" with 20 to 25 additional entrants into the "nuclear club" by the early seventies. In that era analysts feared that there would be a chain reaction of States acquiring nuclear weapons that would slow superpower arms control and possibly engender regional arms races.

But today the world still possesses only five declared Nuclear Weapon States, and the principal reason for this is the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The NPT has created an international legal and moral norm against the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Adherence to it has become one of the fundamental symbols of a State's commitment to peaceful and civilized relations with immediate neighbors and the global community. By making the Treaty permanent in New York in May, the Parties to the NPT decided to reduce future uncertainty of whether or not their neighbors could legitimately pursue nuclear weapons; and they agreed to contain horizontal nuclear proliferation while moving toward the ultimate goal of nuclear disarmament. The States party to the Treaty agreed to extend the NPT indefinitely without conditions because it was in their fundamental national and security interests to do so. It was the collective wisdom of sovereign States.

The notion that the extension decision derived from either explicit or implied threats should be dismissed. From the 111 supporters of the Canadian draft decision for indefinite extension through the quiet, but active, diplomacy of Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, the NPT Review Conference President, it was clear in New York that the vast majority of States, including a majority of Non-Aligned States, supported the indefinite continuation of the NPT. That support derived from the hard-headed determination that the Treaty should continue to serve as the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. It was a promissory note that future generations could count on the Treaty's existence and the security it provides. It was also a conscious decision to maintain the balance of obligations between Nuclear Weapon and Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS).

A persistent fear is that, with indefinite extension, the NNWS have lost their leverage over the NWS, who will now abandon their Article Six obligations. We cannot let this occur. As the five NWS declared on April 6, 1995, in Geneva, and as I reiterated in the U.S. closing statement to the NPT Conference, our ultimate goal is nuclear disarmament. Naturally, the United States believes that nuclear disarmament would have to be combined with other steps toward conventional disarmament, but nevertheless our ultimate objective remains fixed and firm.

How and when the international community will accomplish this goal are yet to be determined, but realize it will. For the United States' part it is obvious that nuclear weapons play a declining role in our defense posture and, as Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton announced at the May 1995 Summit, they intend "to intensify their dialogue" on the prospects for further bilateral reduction with Russia through systematic, verifiable, and stabilizing agreements. This will remain on our bilateral agenda. It is simply inaccurate to review this record with any historical perspective and conclude that the United States is not, in good faith, seeking the cessation and reversal of the nuclear arms race.

With the end of the arms race and the process of irreversible nuclear reductions, the focus of arms control has now shifted to the other items on the arms control agenda. The 1995 NPT Review Conference, which I have called the most important multilateral arms control gathering in history, in fact made that agenda explicit. The Principles and Objectives decision, taken immediately before the extension decision, has laid out for us the scope of our short term horizon: the attainment of a CTBT by no later than 1996, the immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiations to ban the production of fissile material for use in nuclear explosives, progress toward nuclear disarmament, the goal to make adherence to the NPT universal, the strengthening of cost efficient IAEA safeguards, cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, support for nuclear weapons free zones, and the call for security assurances for NNWS.

This is a full and fair agenda. The Parties to the Treaty were able to adopt it without a vote, and, in a third decision, they committed themselves to an enhanced review process of the Treaty that will hold all Parties accountable for their progress to achieve these many goals. Moreover, the enhanced review mechanism will also allow future Conferences not only to assess progress made in the past but also to establish new benchmarks for the future. Suffice it to say that this close scrutiny will apply to all States and all obligations -- the balance I mentioned above will in fact be maintained into the future. Even though future NPT Review Conferences will not be arms control negotiating bodies, it is certain that they will provide substantial impetus to produce tangible progress in the appropriate fora. They simply cannot be ignored.

But, if you will allow a note of caution from a seasoned participant in these affairs, the entire agenda cannot be accomplished overnight, and the new mechanism cannot be misused. We must remember the lessons of the Cold War arms control history. Exaggerated expectations and unrealistic schemes lead only to frustration. During the fifties in the era of heightened Cold War mistrust, the stated goal was general and complete disarmament. Elaborate plans were announced, debated, and then allowed to gather dust. Only when we shifted to more practical and pragmatic measures were we able to build confidence and make progress. We were only able to do this because the leaders of the United States and the USSR realized that their mutual interests in survival required tangible results. And when the political leaders on both sides mustered the political will to conclude these agreements, those very agreements were able to ease -- even hasten -- the end of the Cold War. Rather than choosing the easy road of continued insistence on the ideological correctness of their own respective plans for GCD, the leaders of the United States and the USSR/Russia chose the difficult thousand mile journey of arms control and disarmament taken one step at a time.

Multilateral nuclear arms control is to a certain extent at a similar crossroads in its history. One path suggests a short cut to nuclear disarmament. It asserts that what we must do is set a timetable, elaborate a plan, and phase out these weapons. The Cold War is over; the NPT is extended indefinitely; and our long wait must end. As one of my colleagues in New York said to me regarding the establishment of a date certain for total nuclear disarmament, "well, why, not?" There is in fact a temptation to argue that the long self-denial of the NNWS must now be compensated instantly and completely. There is even the unfortunate tendency now to resurrect unrealistic nuclear disarmament demands as a precondition for progress on other, urgent measures of great import to international peace and security. This is a path leading only to stalemate and posturing, not to genuine accomplishment.

The other path is longer, more complicated, and ultimately more suited for the real world in which we live. It is a path where steps are taken one at a time and issues are prioritized; where progress can occur incrementally across a broad front; and, importantly, where no one loses sight of the ultimate objective. It is a path of hard bargaining, real communication, and agreements based on mutual interests. This is a path that never doubles back even when temporarily detoured or blocked. It is the path where leaders summon the political will to reverse historic positions -- even in the face of domestic criticism or allied discomfort -- to push forward toward the ultimate goal of elimination of nuclear weapons.

This is in fact the path the Clinton Administration has chosen. This Administration has undertaken initiatives that were undreamed of even four years ago.

Any objective observer must admit that this is an impressive record, and it is a record that proves the United States understands and is committed to meeting its NPT obligations. In late October, I visited the United Nations First Committee where, on the margins, I met with many distinguished representatives from States throughout the world. Some are here today. I was gratified to hear from the over thirty diplomats with whom I spoke that the United States' approach to these matters is widely understood and endorsed. My message in New York and here today is the same one that John Holum, ACDA's Director, brought to the First Committee on October 17, when he called on States to join the United States in a "New Dialogue" on arms control and disarmament. This is a new era in arms control. Multilateral issues are increasingly at the forefront of our agenda. Old animosities and postures have lost their relevance, and perhaps even old groupings are beginning to lose their appeal. If the international community is to move expeditiously toward a resolution of the issues before us, there is no place for Bloc mentality. It must adopt a realistic agenda. It cannot create artificial barriers and linkages that inhibit arms control progress.

Let me be blunt. Nations, diplomats, and citizens may differ on the relative merits of constructing a timetable for total elimination of nuclear weapons or for achieving legally binding security guarantees for all NNWS or on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, but failure to achieve consensus on any of these in the short run should not be sufficient reason to prevent progress on measures that would serve the immediate security interests of all. This was true of the NPT's indefinite extension, and it is true of the CTBT and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. I find attempts to link the initiation of negotiations of the Fissile Material Cut-off to other committees, talks or timetables to be unfortunate and counterproduc-tive. Moreover, I note the tone of the declaration of the Non-Aligned Movement in Cartenega. It states that: "...there is no justification whatsoever, if there ever was any, to maintain nuclear arsenals and much less to add new ones as a continuation of the arms race. The time has come for the entire stockpiles of these deadly weapons of mass destruction to be destroyed once and for all. The non-proliferation regime will not be successful without a clear perspective on nuclear disarmament. (There must be) a renunciation of strategic doctrines based on the use of nuclear weapons and ... the adoption of an action plan for elimination of all nuclear weapons within a time bound framework."

It occurs to me that this is the very sort of pronouncement, if made into an unconditional demand, that will throw us back into an era of verbal confrontation. It would be especially ironic if such statements hardened into conditions and thus served to impede progress on the realization of the other items in the NPT Review Conference Principles and Objectives that the NAM declaration endorses as well. I recommend as a substitute for this kind of rhetorical posturing the States decide to use the important multilateral fora to investigate the practical steps they know will make a difference to international peace and security broadly and to regional stability in particular. If the international community fails in this task, we shall all suffer.