Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the high-level segment of the Conference on Disarmament, Moscow, February 24, 2021
I am happy to be able to address this authoritative forum.
The year 2020 was difficult in all respects. Destructive trends aimed at demolishing existing international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regimes became more pronounced and there were increased tensions and lack of trust between UN member states. Unfortunately, the United States continued its efforts to replace international law and the UN’s central role with some rules-based international order dictated from Washington. In 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme. In 2019, it dismantled the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). In 2020, the United States decided to withdraw from the Treaty on Open Skies, and this decision undermines international security.
The coronavirus pandemic became another factor that complicated work at all multilateral venues, including the Conference on Disarmament. In effect, virtually all channels of traditional diplomatic communication and cooperation were paralysed.
Certain reassuring trends appeared only this year. First of all, I am talking about the recent extension of the New START Treaty that remains a fundamental element in maintaining strategic stability and international security. Consequently, for the next few years, this will guarantee the required level of predictability in relations between Russia and the US which have the largest nuclear arsenals. Additionally, we have laid a foundation for future arms control talks, with due consideration for all factors influencing strategic stability.
Efforts to ensure restrained behaviour in the missile field, now that the INF Treaty has been terminated, remain a high-priority matter. Our proposal remains in force: We will not deploy such ground-based missiles in regions where similar US-made systems are not deployed. We are urging NATO countries to reciprocate in a similar manner. Our specific proposals on mutual verification measures are well-known.
The danger of an arms race in outer space continues to increase. The United States and its allies are moving towards using outer space for conducting combat operations, including offensive operations, and towards deploying strike weapons systems there. Russia honours obligations regarding the non-discriminatory use of outer space and its exploration for peaceful purposes. There is still a chance to draft mutually acceptable and legally binding measures capable of preventing a military confrontation in outer space. The draft Russian-Chinese treaty on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space, the use of force or the threat to use force with regard to space objects, submitted here at the Conference on Disarmament, serves as a good foundation for this.
Russia will continue to make a significant practical contribution to nuclear-missile disarmament. Further progress along this path will require the involvement of all states with military nuclear capabilities, in particular the UK and France. Russia is open to multilateral dialogue, which must be based on consensus and respect for the legitimate interests of all parties, and with their consent.
It is our consistent belief that Russia and the United States, as well as the other members of the nuclear five, must reaffirm the fundamental formula that says there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it should never be unleashed. I repeated our proposal to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a telephone conversation on February 4.
We consider it unacceptable to maintain NATO's ‘joint nuclear missions’ that violate the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). American nuclear weapons must be returned to US territory and their overseas deployment infrastructure eliminated.
The NPT Review Conference is going to be the central event of the year – a key international legal instrument in the field of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and one of the foundations of the modern international order. All states parties to the NPT need to do their utmost to ensure that the Review Conference helps to strengthen the Treaty. They need to combine efforts to consolidate all three components of the NPT (non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy) in their harmonious interrelation.
Other issues on the NPT review agenda also require a constructive approach, such as creating a zone free of nuclear weapons and other types of weapons of mass destruction, as well as their delivery systems in the Middle East, and the situation around the Iranian nuclear programme. We call on everyone, primarily the new US administration, to intensify efforts on these tracks that are highly important for the international community.
The situation in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons needs to be rectified. We oppose the vicious practice of using the OPCW to put pressure on ‘undesirable’ states through sanctions based on unsubstantiated accusations of the use of chemical weapons. We support an objective and professional dialogue based on facts and on an honest fulfilment, by the Technical Secretariat, of the Chemical Weapons Convention requirements, and not on some ‘highly likely’ conspiracy theories.
We consider cementing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) regime as one of the priority tasks of the international community. We are ready for constructive work in order to prepare and effectively conduct the BTWC Review Conference scheduled for this year. We urge you to support Russia’s initiatives aimed at strengthening the institutional foundations of this Convention.
In our efforts, we assign the leading role to the UN and its disarmament mechanism. We intend to further promote, at the Conference on Disarmament, the negotiation of a comprehensive and balanced Programme of Work in accordance with the forum’s negotiating mandate, and its inviolable fundamental principles, primarily the rule of consensus. In order to reach such an agreement, we once again urge everyone to take the most responsible approach to the consideration of Russia’s initiative to develop an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism at the Conference on Disarmament.
There is a need to resume the work of the UN Disarmament Commission through settling organisational matters such as ensuring unhindered access for representatives of all member states to New York to participate in UN events.
We all need a constructive dialogue more than ever to prevent further degradation of the international arms control architecture. The conference, with its unique status as a comprehensive negotiating forum on disarmament, can make a significant contribution to straightening out the current difficult situation in the field of international security and promote confidence-building between states.