by NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at the 14th Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in Reykjavik, Iceland
Thank you, Alejandro, for your warm welcome. And good morning everyone.
It is a special pleasure for me to be here this morning.
I want to thank Foreign Minister Thordarson for hosting our conference this year.
I also want to express my gratitude to the government and people of Iceland for being such a valued NATO Ally.
Your country is a founding member NATO, and has played a vital role in our Alliance from the very start, hosting our forces, our exercises, and important meetings – since 1949.
I thank Iceland for your role in helping to keep our people and our countries safe over the past seven decades.
Takk Fyrir Island.
For 70 years, NATO has been a bulwark for the international, rules-based order and adherence to international law.
NATO came into being shortly after the Second World War with the explicit purpose of preventing all-out conflict … preventing a repetition of the unspeakable death and destruction caused by both World Wars – a total of some 90 million soldiers and civilians lost to those conflicts.
It is worth remembering that we are just days away from the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, on November 11.
This is a time to remember the millions of lives lost and the vast devastation caused by that terrible conflict.
We should never forget the horror of chemical weapons that scarred a generation, killing 100,000 soldiers and wounding nearly two million more. And while we swore this would never happen again, deadly chemical agents have been used in our time – in Syria, in Malaysia, in Tokyo, and in Salisbury.
Throughout our history, NATO has been successful in shaping norms and sharing values. This includes norms and values related to arms control and non-proliferation.
From its earliest inception, NATO has supported the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, one of the most important treaties of all time. We will continue to do so through to tomorrow.
We must persist in working within the NPT, and resist the temptation to seek shortcuts that leave out the nuclear weapon states, or ignore our other international commitments.
NATO Allies have stated clearly that they will not support approaches to disarmament that ignore global security conditions or undermine the NPT.
At the same time, Allied leaders affirm that arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation must continue to make an essential contribution to achieving our security objectives.
As the events of the past year have shown, the threat of weapons of mass destruction continues to confront us, and indeed, has grown over the past decades.
State and non-state actors alike continue to seek, develop, and use weapons of mass destruction. Ongoing WMD proliferation and the repeated use of chemical weapons by states and non-state actors erode the norms that we hold dear.
Just recently, the OPCW, the international institution that monitors and helps prevent the use of chemical weapons, has seen cyber tools used against it in an effort to undermine its work – its efforts to get to the bottom of chemicals weapons use in Syria and in the UK.
And this occurs at the moment when the parties to the OPCW have agreed that the OPCW itself should have the ability and tools necessary to identify and to name the guilty parties who chemical weapons.
Let me now turn to the INF Treaty. The United States has been raising concerns about Russia’s compliance with this Treaty since 2014.
The Secretary General and the North Atlantic Council have stood with the United States in support of this treaty from the beginning – and have continued in this vein ever since.
In Brussels in July, the Allied Heads of State and Government expressed strong concerns about Russian non-compliance.
All allies agree that the United States is in full compliance but the challenge is Russian behavior. NATO is in favor of arms control but to be effective, arms control agreements have to be respected by all parties.
The Alliance is united. We support effective arms control agreements and the established international legal framework surrounding them.
And we support ongoing talks with Russia.
The Alliance dialogues with Russia on a range of issues through the NATO-Russia Council, which I am glad to report will meet again on Wednesday.
NATO has a long record of engagement in arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation negotiations.
The Allies have supported disarmament talks, developing proposals to limit and reduce conventional and nuclear weapons, and to prevent the spread of all types of weapons of mass destruction.
Allies supported the negotiation and implementation of all of the major international treaties and conventions in this arena, including the SALT talks in the 1970s, the START treaties, INF, CFE, and Open Skies Treaties, the Chemical Weapons and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventions, and more.
And NATO countries work around the clock in other ways to advance disarmament; for example by destroying excess stocks of small arms and light weapons, landmines, ammunition, and explosives.
In the past 25 years, NATO has destroyed more than 600,000 guns, and 160 million rounds of ammunition. We have cleared more than 4,100 hectares of land mines.
Our latest projects are underway today in Mauritania, in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Serbia. All to make our neighbors more secure, for when they are more stable and secure, so is NATO.
Allies are dedicated to this work because it is in our shared interests. Indeed, it is in the interest of all humanity.
As many of you know, I have spent a bit of time on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in my career.
These topics are very important to me, and I know they are important to you.
They are also important to NATO.
This is our 14th Annual NATO Conference on WMD Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-proliferation.
It is one of NATO’s largest outreach activities. I want to thank all of you for participating in this important global forum on non-proliferation and disarmament.
It is gratifying to see so many old friends and colleagues, all top experts, gathered here. Experts from five continents, from more than 50 countries, including Allies, partners, and friends, and from the most significant major international organizations involved in our common endeavour. Thank you for coming.
I want to close with an extra shout-out to Reykjavik.
It was here, in 1968, where NATO Allies declared their readiness to engage with the Warsaw Pact on Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions, which helped us to stabilize the Cold War and eventually led to the historic Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in 1990.
And it was here, in 1986, about a kilometre away at Höfði House, that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev famously discussed the possibility of eliminating nuclear weapons.
And, while the two failed to reach agreement at the Summit, the goodwill that they built led the two sides to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty one year later.
That agreement breathed life into the negotiation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, a treaty that entered into force a few years later in 1994.
So it is perhaps not surprising that arms control took shape … and the Cold War began to thaw … right here in Iceland.
A spirit of tenacious, hard-headed determination is necessary.
We need to be optimistic but guarded, vigilant but never naïve. These all seem to be characteristics of my Icelandic friends.
I hope the historical importance of this city and this country as a beacon for meaningful progress on arms control inspires our conversations, and I am looking forward to the outcome of our discussions.
As I said before, there is a great deal at stake.
I thank you once again for being here for our 14th annual WMD conference … and for everything you do to help make the world safer and more secure for us all.