U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher: We are committed to working on concrete ideas for missile defense cooperation with Russia
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Ellen Tauscher has given a review of U.S. position on pressing arms control issues, including Iran and ABM in Europe, and praises UN nuclear non-proliferation efforts in an interview with Interfax.Question: How much is the evaluation of missile threats, including the one from Iran, the same, or different between Russia and the United States? Some politicians in the U.S. claim that the Administration underestimates the threat coming from Iran?
Answer: The United States and Russia are working together to conduct the presidentially-directed ballistic missile Joint Threat Assessment (JTA). It is our hope that the process will lead to a better understanding of each others’ perceptions of the ballistic missile threat, including that posed by Iran.
Iran has one of the largest and most active missile programs in the world and our concerns with its ballistic missile development efforts are well-documented and longstanding. The threat posed to international peace and security by these programs has been explicitly identified in a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions. We will continue to work with like-minded countries to address the issue of missile proliferation to and from Iran.
Q.: How close is Iran to the creation of nuclear weapons and its means of delivery?
A.: Iran has refused to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation and to comply with its international obligations. Until the fall of 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons. We also know that the IAEA has information in its possession that describes Iran‘s efforts to develop a nuclear warhead, and the IAEA has reported this information. Finally, we know that Iran continues to enrich uranium at its Natanz fuel enrichment plant and develop further its nuclear fuel cycle, which is essential for the production of material for nuclear weapons.
Iran has much of what it needs from a technical perspective, and it already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It continues to expand the scale, reach and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces – many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
President Obama has made clear that the United States does not dispute Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. But with that right come responsibilities, which include addressing the international community’s concerns, providing full and transparent cooperation to the IAEA, and restoring international confidence in the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities. The [U.S.] president also has said that he supports direct diplomacy as a means to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Iran should take this opportunity to engage seriously and move away from international isolation.
Q.: How does the United States evaluate the position of Russia that it is prepared to cooperate on Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) only on equal basis, and not as an appendix to the U.S. ABM system? It looks like Moscow is suggesting making an evaluation of the threats and deciding about the response only after the threats are being evaluated.
A.: We are committed to working on concrete ideas for missile defense cooperation with Russia. We would like to see our Joint Threat Assessment and talks regarding pragmatic missile defense cooperation efforts proceed concurrently and in parallel.
Q.: Why is the U.S. trying to place Patriot missiles in Poland in such a proximity to the Russian border? Is the decision to place ABM elements in Romania or Bulgaria final?
A.: The Patriot rotation to Poland is for training and exercises. The location for the first rotation was decided for logistical reasons.
While we have discussed the Phased Adaptive Approach with Bulgaria, as we have with other NATO Allies, the United States has not asked Bulgaria to host any [Ballistic Missile Defense] BMD assets. As you know, the United States and Poland concluded negotiations on February 8th on a Protocol amending the original BMD Agreement to host Land-Based SM-3 sites in the 2018 timeframe.
Q.: Moscow claims that the U.S. should stop developing strategic offensive weapons in a non-nuclear capacity because it threatens strategic stability in the world, and is not less dangerous than nuclear weapons. What is the U.S. position about that?
A.: Right now, Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) is being studied to fill a specialized role in our ability to hold targets at risk without resorting to nuclear weapons. Having CPGS in our strategic arsenal will give us valuable options that we currently don’t have and let us pursue dangerous threats, including terrorist groups.
Q.: Is the United States prepared to abandon plans to deploy weapons in outer space?
A.: The United States has no plans to deploy weapons in space and the United States is committed to carrying out all space activities in accordance with applicable international law, including the UN Charter.
Q.: Is the United States prepared to withdraw tactical nuclear weapons from Europe and start negotiations with Russia about their liquidation?
A.: I’ll refer you to what President Obama said two days after signing the new START treaty: “While the new START treaty is an important step forward, it is just one step on a longer journey. As I said last year in Prague, this treaty will set the stage for further cuts. And going forward, we hope to pursue discussions with Russia on reducing both our strategic and tactical weapons, including non-deployed weapons”.
Q.: Does the United States want to change the moratorium about full ban of nuclear tests and ratify the treaty on comprehensive ban of nuclear tests?
A.: The United States is committed to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and to its early entry into force.
Q.: In Moscow they say that before the further reductions of strategic nuclear weapons, we should decide the question about the control on conventional weapons and start implementing the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Is the United States prepared to return to the ratification of the CFE Treaty on these conditions?
A.: The United States, together with our allies and partners, places high value on the CFE regime with its structure of limitations, information exchanges, verification, and its foundation of basic principles, like host-nation consent to the stationing of foreign forces. We are fully committed to finding a solution to the CFE impasse that addresses the security concerns of all 30 States Parties.
As Vice President Biden wrote recently in the International Herald Tribune, the Obama Administration’s goal is to enhance European security based on five principles: reciprocal transparency on military forces; reciprocal limitations on deployments and exercises; devoting more attention and resources to threats emanating outside of Europe; more effective crisis prevention, management, and conflict resolution; and affirming the principle of indivisibility of security, territorial integrity for all countries in Europe, and the right of all states to choose their security alliances. Our approach to preserving and modernizing conventional arms control and the CFE regime will be rooted in these principles.
We appreciate Russia‘s stated readiness to work with us to move ahead on CFE and we hope that Russia will be flexible in working together on a way forward that builds on these principles in a concerted effort to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security and stability.
Q.: Do you think Israel, India, and Pakistan should join the treaty about non-proliferation of nuclear weapons? How would the process of further reductions of nuclear weapons in the world depend on that?
A.: The United States always has supported universal adherence to the Treaty. We encourage those states which have not yet joined the Treaty to act in accordance with its objectives, and encourage all Treaty Parties to work towards establishing the conditions that will induce non-Parties to join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states.
The United States has made extraordinary progress in reducing its stockpile of nuclear weapons, strategic delivery systems, fissile material for weapons, and the associated nuclear weapons infrastructure. But achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons will require the participation of all states.