Opening speech by the President of the International Luxembourg Forum Viatcheslav Kantor at the Luxembourg Forum Supervisory Council meeting

Dear Participants, Colleagues, Friends!

Let me welcome you all to our conference and thank you for finding the time to come to London for the traditional meeting of Supervisory Council. As usual, at the end of the year we take stock of the outcome of the Luxembourg Forum’s activities and identify tasks for the coming year.

The outgoing year has been rich in terms of significant events that could influence our activities. First of all, the election of a new US President, Brexit, unrelenting tensions in the Middle East and Korean Peninsula, mutual recriminations between Moscow and Washington with regard to the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, as well as new threats to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The latter point pertains to Donald Trump’s election campaign rhetoric which featured some isolationist trends including recommendations to Japan and South Korea to assume more ownership of their own security. This has already caused renewed calls in South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. After all, it is very near to a powerful and technologically advanced Japan which is capable of building a nuclear arsenal of its own in a very short timeframe.

Given the potential for the domino effect, all of this threatens to wreck the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

It is still too difficult to make a reliable assessment of the new US Administration’s real nuclear policy. We will have to monitor very closely for potential changes in this policy.

We continue to believe that the two superpowers, Russia and the USA, should be the ones to initiate major steps to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The 2010 NPT Review Conference was a success primarily because Russia and the USA had signed the New START Treaty in Prague shortly before the Conference. The 2015 Review Conference was a failure largely because of the deep stagnation in the negotiations on further nuclear weapons reductions.

Outcomes of work this year

Let me recall that in December last year we held a conference in Washington jointly with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) where we developed and adopted an Address to the Leaders of the USA and Russia. The Joint Statement emphasizes that because of the nuclear dangers, as a matter of highest priority, there is an urgent and immediate requirement to rebuild U.S.-Russian relations.

The leaders of both States should recall the wisdom of former Soviet and US leaders displayed during the Cold War after the Reykjavik Summit.

We urged Presidents Putin and Obama to do the following:

  • Without further delay resume the process of negotiations for follow-on reductions of strategic arms.
  • Undertake measures to exclude the risk of accidental or mistaken launch of missiles and extend the time available to national command authorities for decision-making on the launch of strategic missiles.
  • Resume cooperation on security of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear material security, to prevent the threat of catastrophic terrorism. In particular, emphasis should be given to improving security of radiological materials to counter the growing danger of terrorist acts using a “dirty bomb”.
  • Renew diplomatic efforts on the issues of U.S./NATO ballistic missile defense and strategic precision-guided conventional weapon systems to resolve existing controversies and reach agreements ensuring that those weapon systems will not undermine strategic stability in the future.
  • Initiate talks on the limitation, reduction and confidence-building measures related to sub-strategic nuclear weapons.
  • Initiate a dialogue on cybersecurity focused on developing shared approaches to combating cyber-threats, in particular those that may threaten nuclear command-control and early-warning assets as well as other critical facilities and sites.
  • Renew joint efforts to strengthen the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, including the agreed outcomes of the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences.

The address was signed by Sam Nunn, William Perry, Des Browne, Nikolay Laverov, Hans Blix, Rolf Ekeus, Vladimir Lukin, Roald Sagdeev, and Susan Eisenhower. We know that it was promptly delivered to the leaders of USA and Russia.

The reaction to it was swift. In January this year Washington made a new proposal for further treaty-based reductions of strategic weapons by almost a third of the level stipulated in the New START Treaty signed in Prague.

The proposal elicited a rather sharp response from Moscow. It gave the following reasons for why it would be impossible to negotiate with the USA: firstly, the need for multilateral agreements with other nuclear weapons states; secondly, the continued deployment by the US of the European and global ABM system; thirdly, the existing potential threat of a strategic conventional high-precision disarming strike against Russian nuclear forces; fourthly, the persistent danger of the militarization of the outer space. Finally, the West led by the USA is pursuing an openly hostile policy of Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia.

Luxembourg Forum experts have a well-founded position on these counter-arguments which they have expressed in multiple publications and statements.

Additionally, the Agreement between Russia and the USA concerning the management and disposition of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium has been suspended.

Ultimately, the US Administration offered a new proposal, namely to extend the term of the Prague Treaty by five years, which could be viewed as a fallback plan should there be no new treaty. The Prague Treaty includes such an option. Under the circumstances the extension appears to be more than rational.

The primary consideration here should be that the absence of treaty relations would place strategic offensive arms of both the parties outside of the legal framework that has, for a number of decades, allowed them to reliably verify compliance with treaty obligations with respect to:

- status of strategic weapons, their types and composition, characteristics of deployment areas;

- numbers of deployed delivery vehicles and warheads on them, and numbers of non-deployed vehicles, as well as to see a near term picture.

Pursuant to the Prague Treaty, 18 joint on-site inspections take place annually since 2011 at the ground, naval and aviation bases of the parties’ nuclear triads and the parties exchange up to 42 notifications about the dynamics at the strategic nuclear forces sites.

It is well known that lack of information about the status of the armed forces of conflicting parties usually leads to inflated quantitative and qualitative assessments of the opponent’s capabilities and a build-up of one’s own capabilities to a level that would guarantee adequate counter-measures. This would open a direct path to an uncontrolled arms race. It would be particularly dangerous in case of strategic nuclear weapons because it would undermine strategic stability. This could provide the rationale for the START Treaty extension for five years up to 2026.

However, it would be more advantageous to conclude a new Treaty that would ensure a sustainable strategic balance while generating significant cost savings as compared to the costs required to maintain the weapons holdings established in the Prague Treaty.

All these assumptions provided the foundation for our activities in the outgoing year.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the USA-USSR Summit in Reykjavik we held a Luxembourg Forum conference in June in Amsterdam to analyze the lessons learnt from the Summit and look at current challenges. Members of the Forum’s Supervisory Council, William Perry, Des Browne and Vladimir Lukin, as well as other prominent individuals, including General James D. Cartwright, former commander of the United States Strategic Command, Yury Nazarkin, head of the Soviet Delegation at the START I Treaty negotiations with the USA, Anatoly Adamishin, former USSR Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, and others, attended the conference.

At the conference we were recalled that the Reykjavik Summit took place in a dark period in U.S.-Soviet relations. At the time, the leaders of the two powers – Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev – recognized their tremendous responsibility for global security and opened a path to substantial progress on nuclear disarmament.

The Reykjavik Summit in 1986 provided a turning point in the evolution of nuclear arms control.

1987 saw the signing of the open-ended Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, which included an unprecedented verification regime encompassing testing, manufacturing, deployment and dismantlement of missiles. The START I Treaty was signed in 1991. The famous Nunn-Lugar program and a number of other agreements came into being.

Many of the proposals advanced by the Forum in Amsterdam are in line with those in the Joint Statement addressed to Moscow and Washington in December last year. In Amsterdam we urged the leaders of the United States and Russia to meet to provide the necessary impulse to get out of the current impasse which has been complicated by the situations in Ukraine and Syria.

This year we have also produced and released a number of publications, some of which are available here.

Let’s now turn to plans for 2017

Given the uncertain international security policy of the new US Administration, new trends in the relations between the two nuclear superpowers and the lack of any visible progress in the situations in Ukraine and Syria which in turn influence the relations between Moscow and Washington, we are planning to convene a broad-based conference where we will invite representatives from practically all prominent international organizations dealing with nuclear security. Similarly to the two round tables we held in the past, we intend to discuss key challenges in this area and produce specific recommendations to be distributed to leaders of major nations, the UN Security Council and other entities.

We attach great importance to the planned conference, not just because 2017 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Luxembourg Forum.

I suspect that an initiative of the Luxembourg Forum’s leadership wouldn’t suffice to make the conference happen – it would be very helpful if other globally renowned individuals could support it. We might want to discuss this issue in the course of our meeting here.

The agenda of our meeting is well known to all of you, it’s on the table in front of you. I am confident in the success of our work.

Thank you very much for your attention.