by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller during a panel discussion on Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons at Vatican city
Thank you Jerry for that very kind introduction. Indeed it's been a busy week but I'm truly delighted to be here. As DSG of NATO I can say to you all: now for something really different. But no, I really want to say I think that there is common ground here and I will try in my remarks to convey where I think the common ground is.
I also want to say a big thank you to Your Eminence Cardinal Turkson and also to His Excellency Monsignor Tomasi for inviting me here, he was there a while ago -- oh, thank you, better, thank you -- who were instrumental in inviting me to take part in this meeting.
Let me start by talking about NATO's essential mission. I quote from our founding documents: "NATO's essential mission is to ensure that the alliance remains an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security and shared values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law." This mission, the role of extended nuclear deterrence, and the alliance's longstanding commitment to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, form an important backdrop for our debate this afternoon. Your Eminence, I recall the substantive discussions we had when I visited the Vatican in my previous position in 2014 and 2015. We spoke at that time about the changing security environment, achievements in the arms control and disarmament field, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty to which all NATO members are signatory.
It is my honour to be back at the Vatican today in a different capacity and once again to exchange views on the security environment, deterrence, and how arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation contribute vitally to our security. The purpose of this session is to discuss efforts at the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons. I am not here today simply to criticize that initiative. Every right thinking person and every right thinking organization, including NATO, wants a world without nuclear weapons, period. The issue is how to get there without jeopardizing international peace and security.
Some of you will know that the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest decision-making body, released a public statement on this issue in September. Such statements are rare and an indication of how seriously the alliance takes this debate. That statement made clear, and I quote, that: "The alliance reaffirms its resolve to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons." The statement also emphasized allies' strong commitment to full implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a tried and tested mechanism for achieving that goal in a pragmatic and verifiable manner.
NATO's concern is that the ban treaty won't contribute to the elimination of nuclear arsenals, instead the treaty risks undermining years of steady progress under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Importantly, the ban treaty disregards the security conditions and nuclear challenges that we face, most prominently today the emergence of nuclear weapons and long range missiles in North Korea.
Let me speak for a moment about the profound link between non-proliferation and extended nuclear deterrence. In essence, the U.S. nuclear umbrella made the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty possible. It gave U.S. allies and partners in Europe and Asia the confidence to put aside their own nuclear weapons research and to become non-nuclear weapons states under the NPT. Extended deterrence dispelled John F. Kennedy's prophecy that with nuclear weapons in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world, there would be no rest for anyone, no stability, no real security, and no chance of effective disarmament.
Effective disarmament did follow in the wake of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, with the United States and USSR both destroying the Cold War excess of nuclear weapons that they acquired. From a high of over 32,000 warheads in 1967, by 2015 the United States was down to fewer than 5,000 warheads. Five thousand is still too many, I repeat this again and again, it is still too many, but we have reduced. Nevertheless, we must continue to press forward. And I would say as well in remark to respond to Mohamed ElBaradei's comment that we have not reduced reliance on nuclear weapons, I would say you just have to look at the numbers and you recognize, you must recognize, that we, both the United States and Russian Federation, have reduced reliance on nuclear weapons in our nuclear strategies.
I've already made the case for sticking with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which has abundantly proved its value. Let me spend my last few moments saying what more we should be doing, the international community and indeed the NATO alliance, to carry this agenda forward. The first thing that we can do is to seek to address the underlying conflicts that drive nations toward nuclear weapons. As the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Asia last week, are we doing enough to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in South Asia, in the Middle East? I think all of our countries can do more in that regard and indeed the international non-governmental community can do more in that regard.
The second thing we need to do is to work harder on disarmament efforts between the United States and the Russian Federation. The United States, my own country, has reached out to Russia to re-establish strategic stability talks and address what the United States has determined to be Russia's violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In February of 2018, the two countries, the United States and Russia, will achieve the central limitations of the New START Treaty, bringing the number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 on each side. For comparison, just consider that when the first START Treaty entered into force in 1994 there were approximately 12,000 deployed nuclear warheads in each strategic arsenal.
Now, and I stress this point again, we have to consider how to move forward, what to do next. But I will not, I will not brook the notion that there has been no progress in nuclear disarmament because there has been significant progress. Now, let's figure out what to do next. We also need to close available technical and practical pathways to nuclear weapons. Mohamed ElBaradei noted this point, and I think it's extraordinarily important, we must renew our efforts to strengthen nuclear safeguards, working together with the IAEA, we must negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, work on practical disarmament efforts such as the international partnership for nuclear disarmament verification, and we must strive to bring the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty into force.
The security challenges we face are diverse and evolving, but I am optimistic about the future, otherwise I wouldnt have this job, otherwise I wouldnt have had my previous job, and believe I never would have tried to sit down and negotiate the New START Treaty with the Russian Federation. But you know the Catholic Church puts a great deal of emphasis on faith, hope, and charity, the greatest of these is charity or love, it is said in the bible, but honestly sometimes I think the greatest of these is hope.
So, to end, I wanted to invite you all to come to NATO headquarters, talk to the men and women whose job it is to see, understand, and respond to the dangers that allies face everyday, and work with us to achieve lasting peace, security, and a nuclear free world for all of us. Thank you very much.