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Representative Ellen Tauscher, Munich Security Conference speech, 6 February 2009

Munich Security Conference: Selected speeches

For a full list of speeches go to www.securityconference.de.

Representative Ellen Tauscher, Munich Security Conference speech, 6 February 2009

Distinguished panelists, ministers, and fellow parliamentarians, it’s an honor for me to step in this evening to replace just temporarily Senator John Kerry.  As you know, the Senate is working hard on the stimulus package. I want to make sure that you know that our House colleagues are here – Jane Harmon and Loretta Sanchez from California.  The House, of course, did their work on the stimulus package earlier in the week because we knew we had to be here to be at the Munich Security Conference, especially because of our friend, Wolfgang Ischinger.  This is his first year and we want to congratulate him on the huge success of the Munich Security Conference under his leaderhip.

This is the first time I have been able to address so many key decision makers in one room on an issue that I have long worked on which is nuclear non-proliferation.  As some of you may know, I am the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Arms Services Committee.  In that capacity, I have oversight of over 50 billion dollars budget authority for our nuclear complex including missile defense programs and space programs and satellite programs. 

I have long called for a new debate on the role of nuclear weapons and the need for a new defense strategy for the United States.  That is one of the reasons why last year I created a Strategic Posture Commission, headed by former Defense Secretaries Bill Perry and Jim Schlesinger who will be reporting to us in early April.  Part of their job is to step in between the Strategic Posture Review that the new administration will be putting forward; to give us some new, fresh thinking on how to formulate the role of nuclear deterrence in the 21st century. 

We all here understand that reducing the size of our global nuclear arsenal is an important challenge. President Obama and the American people are ready to work with the international community in a cooperative way.  I met with President Obama two days ago at the White House and we discussed our significant commitment to making future generations safe from the horrors of nuclear war.  A world without nuclear weapons is no longer a dream held be a few, but it is now the ambition of the world. It is an ambition rooted in the reality that people and governments that represent them are asking new questions about nuclear weapons.  In my role as the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee and as the vice-chairman of the United States NATO parliamentary delegation, I have long advocated for closer cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic on combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction. 

All of us understand that the support of the peoples and the parliaments of all our nations for non-proliferation policies is vital for them to succeed.  Recently both the French and British governments have undertaken fresh reviews of the need for nuclear weapons as a part of their defensive capabilities.  In the United States, we just completed an historic presidential election in which the American people made it clear that the old way of thinking was no longer adequate to meet the challenges we face.  And the new thinking in our country wants – and our international partners want – is what I would like to discuss today.

President Obama and I share a common bold agenda on non-proliferation.  President Obama wants to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.  He wants to repair the badly damaged international arms control regime; and he wants to ensure that nuclear materials around the world are safe from theft or misuse.  The United States would, without question, be more secure in a world free of nuclear weapons.  The real question is whether the pursuit of such a goal is in our national security interests. I believe it is.  The debate is therefore not about how nuclear powers can position themselves in a world indefinitely held captive nuclear weapons, but how we here can lead the world in a realistic effort to eliminate them. 

So what can we do in the coming year to achieve this?  

From the American side, I know that working with President Obama, there are several steps we should take in the next couple of years.  

The most immediate is a new commitment by the United States to lead negotiations toward a fissile material cutoff treaty.  This is not a “nice to have.”  This is a “have to have.”  We agreed to this commitment at the 2000 Nonproliferation Review Conference.  Under the treaty, the production of fissile material would end and all enrichment and reprocessing facilities in nuclear weapon states would be subject to international verification.  Following through on this agreement would make it easier to manage the nuclear fuel cycle and reduce the risk of theft of nuclear material.

Second, we must establish clear and enforceable penalties for withdrawal from the Nonproliferation Treaty.  It took three years for the international community to condemn North Korea after it withdrew from the NPT in 2003.  Instead of being allowed to work with impunity,  I recommend that the Security Council prospectively adopt a resolution under Chapter 7 that states that if a nuclear power, after being found by the IAEA, to be in non-compliance with its safeguard commitments, then withdraws from the NPT, such a withdrawal would then automatically trigger sanctions. 

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the United States should immediately ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  This treaty is in the interests of the United States and would help control the emergence of new nuclear weapons programs.  

Next, the United States needs to engage in immediate and unconditional direct negotiations with North Korea and Iran.  I appreciate that Dr. Larijani is here. And while we have significant, and I repeat significant, differences, it is in the interests of both of our countries to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

Finally, the A.Q. Khan nuclear black market network proves how ineffective current export control regimes are at controlling proliferation of nuclear parts and technology.  It is long past due for our Pakistani friends to give us full access to A.Q. Khan so that the world may gain a complete understanding of the damage he caused.  We can also demonstrate to the world that we are not expanding our own nuclear capability by passing laws that say just that.   From 1994 to 2004, we had a law in the United States called 8

From 1994 to 2004, we had a law in the United States, “Spratt-Furse,” named after two of my colleagues, which prohibited research and development of so-called mini-nukes. It was important because of the message it sent to the world that the United States was not looking for new applications for nuclear weapons.  I will work to develop a new ban on development of low yield nuclear weapons. It is important we send an unmistakable signal to the world that we seek no new nuclear capabilities.

The coming year also provides an opportunity to expand our nuclear reduction efforts in concert with Russia. This is another area in which President Obama is committed to acting.

For years we competed with one another, expanding the size and scope of our nuclear arsenals. But we have made great progress, working together under the START and Moscow treaties to greatly reduce our nuclear weapons.  However START, the verification program at the foundation of our disarmament agenda, expires in

December of this year.  We have just nine short months to establish a successor to  START -- one that builds on its successes but addresses its shortcomings.

Recently I led a Congressional delegation to meet with Russian officials. Our conversations were productive and they were eager to find common ground.

I have and will continue to meet with policy makers around the world, as will our new President and his administration.

But beyond the policies, and perhaps even more important, it is how we communicate the importance of arms control.

In a world driven by fear, it may not always be apparent to the people we are trying to convince that producing fewer weapons, engaging in smart diplomacy, and employing all the tools in our toolbox are a better alternative.  After eight long years it should be abundantly clear that bellicose chest thumping doesn’t get results.  What is required is a constant, deliberate effort to contain and reduce the number of weapons in the world.

Before the next NPT Review conference in 2010, we must take a fresh look at our arms control toolkit. The ever-present threats around the globe mean the clock is ticking.

The United States will play a leadership role in reducing the threat of nuclear weapons.

Our new Administration with President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Jones, and many of the other people that are going to here in the next few days, will be leading the way.  I look very much forward to working with all of you on the range of issues that we have talked about.

Just very briefly, I want to say just one thing about missile defense. There have been lots of questions about missile defense.  The United States Congress spoke very clearly last year.  The United States Congress has said that there needs to be testing on the long range system and that it is the United States Congress’s responsibility to have done that.  We don’t believe that the system that has been deployed is effective and at this time is ready to be deployed, however it is.  So what we have required is that the Secretary of Defense certify that the system is operationally effective before it is deployed anywhere else, that there is more testing on the long range system.  But at the same time, I think it is very important that we all work together to combat the threat of short and medium range missiles.  And that is what I hope we will do in a very cooperative manner.

Thank you very much.

Source: Munich Security Conference, www.securityconference.de.

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