Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov has said Russia is a responsible member of the international community committed to its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) non-proliferation obligations and is taking all necessary measures to prevent the emergence of nuclear weapons and related technologies in Ukraine. He made the remarks while addressing a high-level segment of the Conference on Disarmament, March 1, 2022. The conference comes amid rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine after Russia attacked its neighbour over alleged genocide on pro-Russian citizens. We present his remarks below:
I am honoured to address the Conference on Disarmament in person once again. I hoped that I could do it live while being in Geneva. However, it seemed impossible because the EU refused to comply with one of the fundamental human rights – the right to freedom of movement. Having chosen the path of unilateral illegitimate sanctions, the EU countries are trying to move away from an honest face-to-face dialogue, from direct contacts aimed at helping to find political solutions for pressing international problems.
The most acute of them – the tragedy of Ukraine – is the result of connivance of Western patrons to the criminal regime developed there after the bloody unconstitutional coup d’état in 2014 carried out contrary to the safeguards of Germany, Poland and France under the agreement on the settlement of internal Ukrainian crisis. Already then the attitude of the putschists to European values became evident. Today the dangers that the Zelensky’s regime pose for neighboring countries and international security in general have increased substantially after the authorities settled in Kiev started dangerous games related to plans to acquire their own nuclear weapons.
The irresponsible statements made on this subject are not just bravado. Ukraine still has soviet nuclear technologies and means of delivery of such weapons. We can’t fail to respond to this real danger. I can assure you: Russia as a responsible member of the international community committed to its WMD non-proliferation obligations is taking all necessary measures to prevent emergence of nuclear weapons and related technologies in Ukraine. We expect that everyone is aware of the need to solve this problem.
Today, there is a clear need to cooperate intensively in order to increase predictability and prevent new spirals of an arms race. In the current circumstances, it is necessary to refuse to take any actions aimed at dismantling the arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. Of high importance is to refrain from dangerous steps in the field of military build-up that could be regarded as a violation of the principle of equal and indivisible security.
Unfortunately, this very fundamental principle is being disregarded by NATO member-states that redouble efforts to deter Russia. Suffice to mention pulling the Kiev regime into the Alliance’s orbit with providing it with lethal weapons as well as conducting provocative military exercises and other activities in the proximity of the Russian borders.
So far Western colleagues failed to demonstrate any willingness to provide Russia with legally binding long-term security guarantees. We mean the rejection of further NATO expansion, including the revocation of the “Bucharest formula,” which ensures Ukraine and Georgia NATO’s membership. Western countries must refrain from establishing military facilities on the territories of former USSR republics that are not NATO members, including the use of their infrastructure for any military activities. And finally, NATO’s military capabilities, including strike ones, and infrastructure, must be brought back to the levels of 1997 at a time when the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed. These goals are of crucial importance for us.
In addition, I would like again to call on the US, its allies and clients to strictly comply with their international obligations not to strengthen their own security at the expense of others. It would certainly improve the military and political environment in the Euro-Atlantic region, pave the way forward on the entire combination of arms control issues, including possible work on any new arrangements.
The UN disarmament machinery has a decisive role to play in paving ways to get the arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation system out of the crisis. The Conference on Disarmament is its key element. Results of its activities directly impact on the security of all mankind.
Among provisions from the Conference’s agenda, I would like to single out a legally binding instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space. The document is to strengthen the international legal regime in the area of space security. As you know, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty prohibits the placement of any types of WMD in outer space. It is clear that this norm does not extend to other types of weapons. Certain countries took advantage of this loophole to start weaponization of outer space. Doctrinal documents have been adopted, and plans for the deployment of weapons systems, including strike weapons, are being drawn up and transferred into the implementation stage. The threat of a new arms race and the transformation of outer space into an area of armed conflict are gaining real shape. All of this is fraught with dire consequences for global stability.
Russia and China submitted to the Conference a draft Treaty on Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects. Not an acceptable option is to delay the launching of such negotiations. Attempts to replace a legally binding instrument in this area with some half-measures in the form of “rules of responsible behaviour” in outer space are to be considered, in our view, as counter-productive.
We are convinced that negotiations on the prevention of an arms race in outer space would create a favourable context for progress towards nuclear disarmament, another agenda item to which Russia is devoting the greatest attention.
On our initiative, without any conditions the U.S.-Russian New START Treaty was extended for five years in February 2021. By agreement between the presidents of the U.S. and Russia, a comprehensive dialogue on strategic stability was initiated. Its key task is to lay the foundations for future arms control and risk reduction measures. We are ready to work together on a new “security equation” that takes into account all the factors of strategic stability in their interrelationship.
It is unacceptable to us that, contrary to the fundamental provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a number of European countries still have U.S. nuclear weapons on their territories. The flawed practice of “nuclear sharing” involving non-nuclear NATO countries persists and provides a framework for testing actual scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons against Russia. It is high time for U.S. nuclear weapons to be returned home of their possessor and for the associated infrastructure in Europe to be completely dismantled.
We have always believed and continue to believe that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. This principle is reiterated in the Joint Statement of the Presidents of the U.S. and Russia of 16 June 2021 and in the Joint Statement of the Heads of State of China and Russia of 28 June 2021. It is important that at the initiative and with the most active participation of Russia, a Joint Statement of the leaders of the five Nuclear-Weapon States on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms race was adopted on 3 January 2022.
Our country unilaterally undertook not to be the first to deploy systems previously banned by the INF Treaty in regions where no similar American-made means would be deployed in order to ensure predictability and restraint in the missile sphere in the context of the termination of the INF Treaty. We call on the U.S. and its allies to follow our example. I stress in particular that Russia has not possessed and does not possess intermediate-range and shorter-range ground-launched missiles. To argue otherwise would be to create a deliberately false picture and to cover up the actions of those who are really to blame for the destruction of the INF Treaty.
Russia remains open to initiatives for multilateral negotiation formats on the prevention of an arms race and the strengthening of strategic stability. We believe that such ideas should be implemented on the basis of consensus, taking into account the legitimate interests and concerns of all potential participants.
We expect that this year will see the holding of the repeatedly postponed Tenth NPT Review Conference. This Treaty is a key element of international security and strategic stability system. It is essential that the Conference be held in a constructive business-like atmosphere and that at its conclusion the participating States reaffirm their readiness to comply strictly with the commitments they have undertaken. Russia is open to co-operation with all countries for the sake of a successful forum.
We are concerned with the controversial venture of Australia, the UK and the US to create a closed partnership AUKUS. We believe that AUKUS affects negatively the nuclear non-proliferation regime, provokes tensions and creates prerequisites for a new round of the arms race, and not only in the Asia-Pacific region.
We look forward to progress with the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). In this regard, the position of the United States is disappointing. The current U.S. administration has been in office for over a year, but Washington’s previous approach, set out in the 2018 nuclear doctrine stating the refusal to ratify the CTBT, has not yet been revised.
Efforts to restore the full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program continue. We expect them to be successful. There is no reasonable alternative to the JCPOA. Commitments under the “nuclear deal”, reinforced by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, must be strictly implemented without any reservations. We are compelled to state that the current situation is a clear evidence of how dearly Washington’s inflexibility costs global security. A policy based on pressure and blackmail is absolutely hopeless.
Support is needed for efforts to establish a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMDFZ), as envisaged by the resolution of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. On the positive side, we have already convened two sessions of the Conference in accordance with the decision adopted in December 2018 by the UN General Assembly. Russia actively participated in the work of these fora as an observer. We look forward to Israel joining this process, as well as the United States, a co-sponsor of the 1995 WMDFZ resolution.
We advocate strengthening the regime of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (BTWC). We are determined to work constructively with the aim of effectively holding a BTWC Review Conference. We call on international partners to support Russian initiatives aimed at reinforcing institutional foundations of the Convention.
The state of affairs in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is deeply troubling. This is a direct result of the destructive policy promoted by the US and its allies in line with the flawed and harmful concept of “rule-based order”. Western countries have actually “privatized” this technical international structure and submitted it to their geopolitical ambitions. They openly use the Secretariat of the Organization to exert political pressure on “unwanted” governments, against which unsubstantiated accusations are generated. It is in the interest of the international community to do everything possible to prevent the OPCW from turning into a tool for certain states to achieve their reprehensible mercenary goals.
We presume that the Conference is capable of reversing the disastrous trends in the field of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, making a significant contribution to strengthening international security and stability. The Russian initiative to develop an international convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism also addresses this problem. Strengthening the international legal framework for combating WMD terrorism serves the interests of all states.
I am sure that, given the political will, the participants of the Conference will be able to overcome the existing divergences and reach mutually acceptable solutions that pave the way to the resumption of negotiations. We expect the Six Presidents of the 2022 session of the Conference to make its contribution.