Panel Discussion: Welcoming remarks by Ambassador Thoms on "Preparing for Deep Cuts: Overcoming the Gridlock in Nuclear Arms Control"
"Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to this panel discussion in the German House! Today, the trilateral German-Russian-American “Deep Cuts” Commission will present its findings on how to make progress on nuclear disarmament and arms control. When the Commission drafted its report earlier this year, the situation with respect to disarmament and arms control seemed difficult.
The “gridlock” mentioned in the title of today’s event was quite substantial. As you will recall, in June 2013 President Obama proposed a new disarmament round in his speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and we still await progress in this respect.
If the situation was difficult in 2013, it is even more challenging today.
We have all been following recent events on the Maidan in Kyiv, the Russian annexation of Crimea in clear breach of international law, the escalation of violence in Eastern Ukraine. Germany has worked hard with its partners to de-escalate this crisis, including through supporting the OSCE mission to Ukraine. The Geneva meeting was certainly a step in the right direction, but we need more commitment towards its implementation.
The fact that OSCE observers – among them four fellow countrymen - continue to be held hostage by armed separatists drastically underlines: This crisis is far from being over!
You might therefore ask yourselves whether this is the right moment to discuss future deeper reductions of nuclear arsenals.
But I would venture to say: the crisis testifies to the fact that we need this kind of trilateral dialogue today maybe more than ever.
Our discussion today will serve to illustrate the potential gains that could be derived from taking the disarmament agenda forward – and also the costs of failure if we don’t make progress in this field.
This being said, I would agree that we are not likely to see any practical progress in the short term.
But for nuclear disarmament you need to be persistent. Arms control and disarmament will eventually be back on the agenda.
And we have to prepare for these better times today.
There are many reasons for this: One reason which I would like to highlight is article VI of the NPT. As the International Court of Justice spelled out in its landmark advisory opinion of 1996, it calls for the end of the arms race and for constructive negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear arsenals.
Nuclear disarmament is, in the light of the NPT, more than just an option. It is an obligation incumbent not only upon the Nuclear Weapons states, but upon all States.
Furthermore, it is obvious that the NPT as the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation and disarmament architecture will come under enormous strain if we don’t pave the way for substantial progress in disarmament.
Most experts predict this to be one of the key messages of the third PrepCom, and one of the key challenges for the 2015 Review Conference.
We need to think beyond the current crisis – and this is precisely what the Commissioners of the Deep Cuts Commission have done and will continue to do. They came up with a very insightful report which is currently being discussed in the capitals of the three partner countries.
I very much hope that its proposals on confidence-building measures, on arms control in the broader sense of the term, including conventional arms control, will receive the attention they deserve even in these difficult times.
I would now like to ask the Head of the German NPT Delegation, the German Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Ambassador Michael Biontino to chair the panel.
I would like to warmly thank the panelists, Steven Pifer, Götz Neuneck and Eugene Myasnikov for sharing their thoughts with us.
And I would like to thank you all for accepting our invitation and for enriching the debate!"