U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller: We don’t want to see action-reaction cycle like we saw during the Cold War
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller has given an interview to Interfax in which she explains the U.S. position on Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, rejects Russian claims, speaks about the U.S. vision of further strategic weapon reductions and states that the agreement between P5+1 and Iran would not affect the European missile defense shield plans.Question: It has been reported over the past weeks that the U.S. may station land-based cruise missiles with nuclear warheads in Europe. Are these just threats to Russia or are there such plans in reality that are being already worked on?
In order to do so, the U.S. has to quit the INF Treaty. Are you ready for this? Are not you afraid that such a move may trigger Russia‘s reaction, which means a new arms race, including in the nuclear sphere?
Answer: We have not and are not threatening Russia. We have raised concerns with Russia regarding its violation of the INF Treaty, and since May 2013, have held senior bilateral discussions on this matter.
As we continue to engage the Russian Federation, we have made it abundantly clear that we are also consulting with allies and reviewing a range of appropriate options – diplomatic, economic, and military – to respond to Russia’s continuing violation of its treaty obligations.
We value the INF Treaty and believe it remains a key component of Euro-Atlantic and Asian security. The INF Treaty benefits the security of the United States, our allies, our partners, and the Russian Federation. The United States is committed to returning Russia to compliance to ensure the continued viability of the INF Treaty. We do not want to see another action-reaction cycle, like the one we saw during the Cold War.
However, while it is our desire to seek a diplomatic resolution, our patience is not unlimited. We have made clear that we will protect our allies and ourselves and deny Russia any significant military advantage, if it persists in its violation.
Q.: The United States has been saying for more than a year that Russia is violating the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. However, Russian officials say that you provide no proof. Can you name specific violations?
U.S. media reported that Russia‘s R-500 missile that is being developed for Iskander complexes is subject to the treaty. Is it so?
A.: The United States has determined that the Russian Federation is in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.
The R-500 is not the missile that we have determined is in violation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In addition, the RS-26 ballistic missile is not the missile of INF concern, as some have speculated. At issue is a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500-5,500 kilometers. We are confident that the Russian government is aware of the missile to which we are referring.
Q.: Russia has been voicing concerns over U.S. work on weapons that are banned under the INF Treaty. Moscow believes that U.S. attack drones are subject to the treaty, while anti-ballistic missile launch-pads that will be deployed in Romania and Poland are directly prohibited under the treaty. What is your comment on this?
A.: The United States remains in compliance with the INF Treaty and takes its obligations seriously. We continue to engage the Russian government in order to return Russia to compliance with the INF Treaty.
To date, Russia has been unwilling to acknowledge its violation or address U.S. concerns. Instead, Russia is seeking to deflect the issue by accusing the United States of violating the INF Treaty in multiple areas.
The INF Treaty poses no restrictions on the testing, production, or possession of two-way, reusable, armed unmanned aerial vehicles.
Russia’s allegations are surprising because Russian firms have pursued the development of such systems for years and the Russian Federation supports development of armed UAVs.
Further, the United States actually addressed this concern during the INF Treaty Special Verification Commission fifteen years ago.
The Aegis Ashore missile defense system is fully consistent with U.S. obligations under the INF Treaty.
The Aegis Ashore missile defense system is incapable of launching cruise missiles, such as the Tomahawk. The Aegis Ashore launcher is only capable of launching missile defense interceptor missiles, such as the SM-3 interceptor, which are not missiles subject to the INF Treaty as they are developed and tested solely to intercept and counter objects not located on the surface of the earth. Such systems are explicitly excluded fr om the INF Treaty.
In addition, the Aegis Ashore missile defense system does not include software, fire control hardware, additional support equipment, and infrastructure to support launching land attack missiles.
Finally, the Aegis Ashore missile defense facilities in Romania and Poland are for defensive purposes only, and cannot fire offensive weapons.
Q.: U.S. President Barack Obama offered a further strategic arms reduction to Russia several years ago. Russia thinks that the withdrawal of U.S. tactical nuclear arms from Europe is one of the conditions for a dialog on the further reduction. Russia sees a threat in tactical nuclear arms as its proximity to the Russian border makes it almost strategic in nature. Does the U.S. consider such a possibility?
A.: In June 2013 in Berlin, President Obama stated U.S. willingness to negotiate a reduction of up to one-third of our deployed strategic weapons from the level established in the New START Treaty. That offer is a good one and it is still on the table.
President Obama has also made it clear that the United States was willing to work with its NATO Allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. Progress on further reductions requires a willing partner and a conducive strategic environment.
It is important to note that even after Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea (which NATO has said it will never accept or recognize), NATO affirmed that continues to aspire to a cooperative, constructive relationship with Russia, including reciprocal confidence building and transparency measures and increased mutual understanding of NATO’s and Russia’s non-strategic nuclear force postures in Europe, based on our common security concerns and interests, in a Europe wh ere each country freely chooses its future. The United States and its NATO allies regret that the conditions for such a relationship do not currently exist.
Beyond this, Russia has pushed an extensive list of preconditions it says need to be addressed before it even begins to discuss the issue of further nuclear reductions. This absolutist stance raises questions about how serious Russia is about addressing non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) reductions or transparency.
This is part of a larger pattern. The United States is committed to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. Our commitment is borne out by words and deeds. Russia’s words and deeds paint a different picture and it is clear that for now Russian actions are preventing forward progress on these critical issues.
Q.: Are there still mutual inspections being conducted in terms of realization of the New Start Treaty on each other‘s territory given the limited number of mutual contacts? What will happen in the nuclear disarmament sphere after 2018?
A.: The New START Treaty does not "expire" in 2018. The central limits of the New START Treaty must be achieved by 2018, but the treaty will remain in force until 2021, with an option for it to be extended for an additional five years. It continues to enhance security and strategic stability for both the United States and Russia.
Both nations are implementing the treaty’s verification regime. Current tensions with Russia highlight the importance of the mutual predictability and confidence provided by notifications, data exchanges and on-site inspections under the treaty, and the mutual security and stability provided by verifiable mutual limits on strategic weapons.
There are real and lasting steps we should be taking that can contribute to a more predictable, safer security environment. What we need is a willing dance partner.
Q.: Why is the U.S. so concerned about the possibility of deploying nuclear arms or arms capable of carrying nuclear warheads in Crimea? Can retaliative measures be taken, in particular the deployment of nuclear arms on the territory of allied states?
A.: Any steps toward deploying nuclear weapons in Crimea would be provocative, destabilizing to European security, and further violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Q.: Several years ago, when U.S. planned to form a European missile defense shield, Washington calmed Moscow down saying that this was directed against Iran rather than Russia. Later the U.S. said that the European missile defense shield will be redundant after the Iranian nuclear issue is solved. P5+1 and Iran are now as close to the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue as never before. However, the U.S. has reaffirmed the European missile defense shield plans. How can you explain this? Moscow treats this as a proof that the European missile defense shield is directed against Russia. Can you explain this in terms of Russia‘s deliveries of S-300 systems to Iran?
A.: The United States has never said that the European missile defense shield will be redundant or operationally irrelevant after the Iranian nuclear issue is solved. As we have stated, if the United States and our P5+1 partners are able to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran follows through, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security. However, as we have also stated, an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program does not resolve our other concerns about Iran’s behavior, including its support for terrorism, its destabilizing activities in the Middle East, and its threats to our friends and allies.
We remain very concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile program. The [U.S.] president [Barack Obama] has made it clear that successful resolution of the nuclear issue would not obviate the need for ballistic missile defenses and that the United States will remain committed to the security of our allies against possible ballistic missile threats, including those posed by Iran and its non-state proxies in the region. We will continue to take action to counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, including through regional security initiatives with our partners in the region, missile defense, sanctions, export controls and the 34-country Missile Technology Control Regime.
Further, as we have said many times and as the scientific data bears out, our ballistic missile defense programs are not directed at the Russian Federation nor are they capable of posing a risk to the Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear forces.
Regarding S-300s, we have made clear our objections to any sale of the S-300 missile system and other such sophisticated defense capabilities to Iran for quite a few years now. Those objections still stand.
Q.: Are there problems for you with communicating with your counterparts in Russia given that the activity of working groups as part of the presidential commission has been frozen?
A.: While we have suspended Bilateral Presidential Commission programs due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, we are still communicating regularly about issues relating to international security and several other areas of operational cooperation in our mutual interest, such as law enforcement and counter-terrorism.
Q.: Is the hotline still operating?
A.: The hotline is, of course, still operating, as is the robust notification system run through our Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers.