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20 March 2017, Brussels – Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the 2017 Carnegie Nuclear Policy Conference

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Let me thank you, Bill [William Burns, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace], and let me thank Carnegie and all of you for being here, and for this invitation. You know how much I care about non-proliferation and nuclear policy: even before I chaired the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, before I was High Representative or Minister, I was already engaged with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), and the broader global non-proliferation community. And I see so many friends here today I am really please to meet again.

Not only are so many of you here in the room, I also see the non-proliferation work done – a work that is key this moment. It is a life-time commitment, but in this precise moment, it is even more important to discuss nuclear policies, and to preserve the rules that were agreed in recent decades through so much hard work, vision and courage.

So I’m particularly glad to be here with you today, for at least two reasons. One, that we really need the expert community to be part of the conversation with policy-makers, to explain what the current rules have achieved, what we still have to build, and why it is so important to strengthen and preserve the global non-proliferation architecture. Second, because we can never stop looking at the way forward, as new challenges arise – as Bill was mentioning -, at the new tools we can develop, and the potential impact of any new agreement.

The European Union organises every year a “Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference” precisely for this reason. So it is just natural for me to be here with you – from a personal point of view and from an institutional one, and I would even say from a political one. And let me thank Carnegie and all of you here again for this conference and for your constant contribution to this very important debate. A debate that can and must shape the direction of policy making.

Now in particular, because I see a lot of confusion in today’s world. And even the most basic rules of our international system seem to be called into question. In an era of power-politics and realpolitik, I would like to be as realistic and as pragmatic as I can – being a woman normally this works quite well.

So let me be very clear: the security of our citizens today can only be achieved through non-proliferation and disarmament. It is a matter of security. A new arms race is not the solution to any of the security challenges or threats we face. The Cold-War era is over. The world today is much more complex, much more fragile than 25 years ago. The number of nuclear states has risen – so that there is not just one “nuclear balance” to take into account, but several and overlapping nuclear balances.

Henry Kissinger has explained it incredibly well. I come from a very different background, but I do appreciate the wisdom of the old-school Republican realism, especially in these times. In 2014 he assessed that major powers have over-invested in nuclear weapons, at their own peril. I quote: “The most fearsome of weapons, commanding large shares of each superpowers’ defense budget, lost their relevance to the actual crises facing leaders”.

As a result, Kissinger assessed, in many cases, I quote again: “Technological supremacy turned into geopolitical impotence”. Kissinger argues that the “relatively stable nuclear order of the Cold War” simply belongs to a different era. And in today’s world, some nuclear actors might want to show that they are ready to take “apocalyptic decisions,” even if they would have disastrous consequences for everyone, including themselves.

So, the logic of deterrence could easily become outdated – and this would definitely be the case, if a criminal or terrorist group had to acquire a weapon of mass destruction. In a fragile world like ours, a nuclear balance of terror would be incredibly dangerous. And the only way to make our citizens more secure runs through non-proliferation and disarmament. The only way forward is to invest together in a strong system of truly global rules.

We, Europeans, aim at multilateral disarmament. We all want to guarantee non-proliferation through treaties and verification regimes. This is stated very clearly in our Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy – that I presented at Carnegie a few months ago – and that was agreed by all our 28 Member States – still 28 for a couple of years -, including the nuclear weapon states. So, the European Union will continue to be a strong, consistent, reliable, predictable partner, for all those who believe that security comes through non-proliferation and I guess in this room we are quite the majority. We will keep working as the European Union to preserve, strengthen and expand the current rules.

Think of the Non-Proliferation Treaty: it has been the cornerstone of the global security architecture, and today, as it turns fifty, it has become even more important – not less. Or think of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). North Korea’s nuclear tests have shown once again how urgent it is to make the Treaty enter into force. Its Organisation [CTBTO] has provided already the world with a truly global, hi-tech monitoring system for nuclear explosions – something that no single country alone would be able to do.

Not only do we need to complete this global monitoring network, we must continue to argue for all countries – including this one, the United States of America – to move towards ratification. This would be an investment in America’s security, and in our collective security. The international community needs unity in its response to nuclear threats, to North Korea’s threats. And unity can only be built and preserved if we all abide by the same rules, if our commitments are truly credible. Unity is also what brought us the deal with Iran: America and Europe, Russia and China, working together.

Whatever views you might have on the agreement – and I know here in Washington there are different views – there are some facts that no one can ignore – not opinions, facts. For five times now, five times, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified Iran’s compliance with the deal, and it is constantly monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme. I chair regular meetings at ministerial level with the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Iran. And we all assess the implementation of the agreement in all its parts. And the United Nations, as you know well, has thrown its weight behind the deal, endorsing it in the Security Council.

So let me state it very clearly, as I always do: It is an agreement that belongs to the entire international community and that the Europeans are determined to preserve because its full and strict implementation is key to our own security. Multilateral diplomacy has achieved something impossible to achieve by any other means – through unity. There is simply no doubt about it. And this is the path we Europeans want to continue to follow.

A renewed confrontation among world powers will not serve anyone’s interest – it will only make us more insecure, more exposed to these threats. The right path is the one marked by the new START (STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and its implementation. This is the kind of cooperation between Russia and the United States that we Europeans would like to see.

Any violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, on the contrary, would endanger a security architecture that, since the end of the Cold War, has made Europe a safer place. A logic of provocation or retaliation cannot apply to nuclear issues. The game has become far too complex and the field far too crowded. A new arms race, far from being a stabilising factor, would spark new tensions, destabilise entire regions and make our world much, much more dangerous.

So the answer to today’s instability, to a shifting global balance of power, is more cooperation and stronger global governance. This is what the Europeans stand for. We need to protect the rules we have, enforce them more effectively together, work on our verification regimes, agree on better rules when the situation requires it, develop new tools and mechanisms when needed. We must strengthen our partnerships, build new international alliances, new formats, new spaces for regional cooperation.

This is what the European Union believes, and this is our strategic interest. I know that other world powers might not share our views. But I also believe that we are going through a moment of transition, a very unsettled situation, and we have a chance to maybe influence the outcome of this transition.

So we need the experts and the academia, the civil society, citizens, those who are dedicated to the nuclear policy agenda to make their voice heard, to make the arguments. We need your expertise and your engagement – not only to analyse the challenges, but also to shape our response, the policy making. To make it more cooperative, which means to us Europeans to make it more effective.

What is at stake is global security. We must have learned something from our tragic history. The world today is a dangerous place – a very dangerous place. It is definitely not the time to play with fire. What is at stake is our own security. That is why you will always find the European Union engaged and committed, for nuclear non-proliferation.

I thank you very much.

  • Ref: EU17-0320
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum:
  • Date: 20/03/2017

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