5 Feb 2016

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security State Rose Gottemoeller: Washington, Moscow could settle INF problem in 2016

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security State Rose Gottemoeller has given an interview to Interfax in which she speaks about U.S.-Russian issues over the INF Treaty and states that the United States is not going to return to the IV stage of its missile shield in Europe and not going to return nuclear arms to the Korean peninsula.

Over the coming months the United States and Russia can settle the problem of presumed violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), Gottemoeller said.
The parties have reached progress on this issue, she said.
The U.S. continues trying to persuade Moscow that it is in its own interest to return to complying with the INF, she said. The U.S. is disappointed by the fact that Russia is not even ready to admit the very fact of the ground launch of a cruise missile that was tested within the range of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, and has no desire to react in any way to the U.S. concern, the under secretary said.
Nevertheless, the U.S. is hoping for some progress over the coming months, she said.
When asked whether in that case the likelihood of sanctions being introduced against Russia would disappear, Gottemoeller said that the U.S. was still contemplating possible counter-measures of an economic and military nature in response to violation of the INF by Russia. But Washington must also look for ways to resolve this problem and is doubtless committed to finding a solution, she added.
The U.S. regularly interacts with Russia at the highest level in the one-on-one format and some meetings are also held at the expert level, she said. So the discussion is ongoing, and hopefully there is a chance to resolve this problem in 2016, she said.
Speaking about the upgrading of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, Gottemoeller said that that would not lead an increase in the military potential of these weapons.
The U.S. is going to replace several types of B61 nuclear weapons with one standard type of B61-12 weapons, she said, noting that there are very many speculations on that score at the moment.
The B61-12 weapons will have to undergo a service life extension program to replace non-nuclear components that are becoming obsolete, she said.
The military potential of the B61-12 will not increase but will be equivalent to the military potential of the old B61 types, she said. The number of U.S. weapons deployed in Europe will not increase either; rather, on the contrary, she said. The U.S. will be able to considerably reduce the number of gravity bombs in its nuclear arsenal, Gottemoeller said.
Gottemoeller also noted that the U.S. is not planning to return to implementing the fourth phase of the European missile defense shield that involves deployment of interceptor missiles in Poland.
She absolutely ruled this out when asked if the U.S. could revisit this idea, given the tensions in its relations with Russia.
The U.S. made a firm decision over the European phased adaptive approach, she said.
Back in 2013 the U.S. decided there was no need for phase four and cancelled it, she recalled.
The United States is not prepared to hold talks with Russia over further reductions of strategic offensive arms while taking into account the nuclear potential of NATO members France and the United Kingdom, Gottemoeller said.
The idea to take into account France and Britain‘s nuclear potentials also existed during the Soviet period, and the U.S. kept rejecting it as being irrelevant both to the bilateral relations and to the bilateral agenda of strategic offensive reductions, she said in an interview with Interfax.
The U.S. and Russia still hold over 90% of the world‘s all nuclear weapons, Gottemoeller said. Asking the U.S. to include France and Britain‘s potentials in these talks is inappropriate, she said.
Despite the differences, both Russia and the U.S. should continue arms reductions because it is in both countries‘ interests, the diplomat said.
It is clear that no nation will sit down at the negotiating table unless it realizes the benefits fr om arms reductions for its national security, said Gottemoeller, emphasizing that there are serious arguments in favor of such a reduction.
On a visit to Berlin in June 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama called for reduction of one-third of the deployed strategic weapons to the level specified in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and this serious proposal is still on the table, she said.
The current state of the U.S.-Russian relations must not hinder the strategic dialogue that has continued since the 1970s, both in bad times and in good times, Gottemoeller said.
Despite the current negative situation in the bilateral relationship, which resulted from over Russia‘s actions in Ukraine, control over strategic nuclear weapons remains the area wh ere dialogue must continue as it is not just in U.S. and Russian interests, it is in the interest of global security, Gottemoeller said.
The U.S. regrets that Russia has refused to attend a preparatory meeting of the Nuclear Security Summit and the summit proper, which is due to be held in Washington on March 31 - April 1, 2016, she said.
In her view, the summit, which gathers world leaders every two years, is a unique mechanism that can help reach progress such an important sphere as nuclear security.
She recalled that in 1996 Russia hosted a nuclear security summit attended by the G7 and Russian leaders.
At the time, the summit was attended by President Boris Yeltsin, and its results were impressive, she said. Hopefully, Russia still sees the safety of nuclear materials and the fight against nuclear terrorism as a topic worthy of the attention of world leaders, she said. She also expressed hope that the results of this year‘s summit in Washington will be no less impressive.
The U.S. looks forward to cooperating with its partners on various platforms to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism, she said. This is in the interests of all sides, so the U.S. will be searching for various opportunities, including new ones, to cooperate with Russia in this important area, Gottemoeller said.
Speaking about Iran, she said the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by Iran will not lead to the cancellation of U.S. sanctions imposed for other reasons.
The sanctions that have no connection to the Iranian nuclear program, as well as those imposed because of Iran‘s missile program will stay in place after the implementation of the JCPOA, Gottemoeller told Interfax in an interview.
The United States will continue to closely follow the implementation of those sanctions, which is already happening today, he said.
The settlement of problems related to the Iranian nuclear program will not solve other problems in relations with Iran, she said. Washington has sent clear signals that the U.S. will continue to respond to threats to it and its partners that have stemmed from the Iranian missile program, Gottemoeller said.
She also said that all interested states should take part in negotiations on convening a conference for the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, and there will be no sense in such a conference without Israel.
Regional countries should get together and continue serious discussions and achieve an agreement on the convocation of the conference, Gottemoeller told Interfax in an interview, adding that absolutely all countries of the region should be involved in the process.
Gottemoeller is sure that Israel should also be involved in the process of organizing the conference. If Israel does not take part in the conference, such a conference will have no meaning, that is why it is important that all countries of the region do not stay aside.
The issue of convening the conference on the creation of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East was a stumbling block when a final document of the 2015 Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was adopted in New York. The United States then blocked the document because Israel which is not a part of the NPT did not agree to a number of the final document‘s provisions. Moscow said that this might undermine the whole nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Gottemoeller noted that it is important to have a comprehensive look at what happened in New York in May. The U.S. was not able to back a draft final document of the review conference because the language of the document did not allow to reach consensus of all regional states on the WMD-free zone in the Middle East, she said.
All countries of the region should show political will to resume a direct dialog based on consensus on the convocation of the conference, she said. The U.S. is a strong advocate of such negotiations and is ready to actively work in this direction, she said, noting that to her knowledge Russia is ready for such work too.
As to the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula, Gottemoeller said that the U.S. is not going to put its tactical nuclear weapons back in South Korea in the wake of the escalation around North Korea, but is ready to give an adequate response to Pyongyang‘s provocations, U.S. Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said in an interview with Interfax.
The U.S. made it absolutely clear that it will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state and will continue to protect and defend its allies in the region, including South Korea and Japan, Gottemoeller said.
The U.S. will adequately respond to all provocations by North Korea, she said.
When asked if a military response from the U.S. would be possible, should the situation around North Korea‘s nuclear program get out of control, the diplomat reassured that Washington does not want escalation and aims to find diplomatic solutions.
The U.S. decides how to respond to Pyongyang‘s provocations in close cooperation with its allies in South Korea and Japan, she said, while emphasizing adequate response, not escalation, adding that the U.S. has no desire to move towards escalation.
She stressed the need for advancement on the diplomatic front in order to put North Korea back at the negotiating table and secure verifiable de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula peacefully.
As to a possible adjustment of U.S. anti-missile policies in Asia over the threat from North Korea, Gottemoeller stressed that the existing potential is sufficient to protect U.S. allies against North Korean missiles. Over the past few years the U.S. has significantly increased ballistic missile capabilities in the region after deploying two counter-missile radars in Japan, the so-called AN TPY-2, and increased the number of U.S. Navy warships equipped with the Aegis system; an anti-missile defense system, THAAD, has been deployed to Guam, Gottemoeller said.
The U.S. will continue supporting its allies, South Korea and Japan, in their efforts to consolidate their defense potential to counter the missile threat from North Korea, said the diplomat, adding that this is precisely the aim of the U.S. missile defense system.