Speech by the President of the Luxembourg Forum Viatcheslav Kantor at the meeting of the Luxembourg Forum Supervisory Board. December 1, 2021
Viatcheslav Kantor | SPEECH
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and members of the Supervisory Board of the Luxembourg Forum!
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening!
Let me first thank you for taking part in our online conferences, despite the difficulties posed by time differences.
This is the first time that we are conducting on-line this traditional meeting of our end-of-year Supervisory Board to review my report on the results of the Forum’s work and our tasks for the upcoming year.
That said, we have already acquired experience of working this way by holding three on-line conferences. The first of these was on 6 June, which was devoted to the question of extending the START-3 Treaty and the consequences of withdrawal from the INF Treaty, with participation from leading US and Russian experts.You all have a good idea of the situation in this area and of our hopes and the tasks before us, which I shall come to later.
The second conference was devoted to the Middle East. The chaotic situation in the region where the interests and actions of virtually all the regional, and a number of global powers are closely intertwined has put the crisis over the Iranian nuclear deal in the shade. We noted that the effective termination of measures under the JCPOA of 2015, which was the result of many years of uphill work on the part of five other countries in addition to Iran, has virtually turned the situation back to the point where Iran is now capable of creating a nuclear weapon [at the drop of a hat] in a very short period of time.
What we are seeing currently is that the restrictions and bans established under the deal are being violated: Iran increasing its uranium stocks and enrichment levels and denying IAEA inspections access to suspicious sites. As IAEA registered in its quarterly report of 11 November, Iran is continuing to stockpile reserves of low-grade uranium far beyond the limits established by the agreement and continues to enrich it to a higher level of purity than is allowed. The report cites specific data. The Iranian UN permanent representative Ravanchi threatened the US at the end of June with direst of consequences because of the US resolution to extend the embargo on arms supplies, in the event of the Trump administration insisting on re-imposing UN sanctions.
In our Declaration of July 14, we recommended that the administration of the US President re-think its position with regard to the Iranian nuclear question and not impede other states’ fulfilling all the conditions of the JCPOA. We also recommended that the European parties to the deal should draw up economic solutions and tools to meet [ways and means of fulfilling] their obligations under the JCPOA, since further development of the Iranian nuclear programme and missile systems presents the greatest threat first and foremost to Europe. But the Iranian leadership must cease its provocative actions and revert to strict observance of all the provisions contained in the JCPOA, inasmuch as all parties, bar one, are in fact fulfilling their obligations. Otherwise, the anti-Iranian sanctions will only escalate, both in terms of their impact and the number of participants.
We were convinced that the implementation of these proposals would allow for a de-escalation of this new Iranian nuclear crisis, which had the potential to trigger a major war in the Middle East.
In terms of realising our proposals in the Declaration, I should mention the offer from the Russian leadership which came very shortly afterwards, to hold an on-line meeting between the heads of state of the permanent members of the UN Security Council with the participation of Germany and Iran to resolve the problem of the JCPOA. Apart from Germany’s agreement to this, however, there was no other reaction.
I have elaborated in some detail on the outcome of this conference firstly because the situation in Iran is becoming increasingly threatening: the economic crisis is worsening, radical elements are strengthening their influence in all branches of government, draft laws are being debated for a de facto total withdrawal from the nuclear deal and work is already progressing on readying facilities to sharply increase production of enriched uranium and plutonium. We are therefore duty-bound to analyse the situation on a continual basis and put forward professional solutions.
On July 15 we held a Special Luxembourg Forum session on ‘The Intellectual Legacy of Academician A. D. Sakharov and the Issues of Strategic Stability’. Speakers included the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksandr Sergeyev, the ex-Minister of Culture, Mikhail Shvydkoi, the former chairman of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, famous world-renowned nuclear physicists and six members of the Forum’s Supervisory Board, many of whom knew academician Sakharov personally.
Their contributions were extraordinarily interesting and emphasised the unsurpassed significance of Sakharov’s work in physics, philosophy and human rights.
Other results of the Forum’s work this year include the publication of a book entitled: ‘The Middle Eastern Crisis: Scenarios and Opportunities’ which follows up on our Conference on the Middle East and features many of the speakers as contributors. The book will soon be available on the Forum’s website. Before the year-end we shall also prepare a booklet on the outcomes of the Conference dedicated to Academician Sakharov.
The [lockdown] isolation caused by the pandemic has in fact fostered a considerable enhancement of the activity of the members of both the Forum’s International Advisory Council and Supervisory Board. As many as 208 articles, chapters in monographs and extensive interviews have been published on a wide range of issues to do with arms control and international security. This has been recognized as a conspicuous phenomenon worldwide in the professional milieu.
We have also launched a regular newsletter about Forum members’ publications, delivering it to more than 600 recipients, including the leading [international thinktanks] world information and analytic centres.
So much for the results of the current year.
Our expectations and taskings for next year are closely linked to hopes for the removal of a number of very considerable strategic uncertainties, which wouldn’t rule out a multitude of tactical options.
First of all, we can expect an extension of the Prague [START-3] Treaty, which the US President-elect has already alluded to in his statements. This may offer an opportunity to discuss further steps towards the reduction of strategic weapons. On this issue we can clearly foresee multiple difficulties arising in terms of the format, content, conditions and other possible parameters of new agreements. What can we expect in terms of an integrated approach to dealing with both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons? What can be achieved in terms of reductions of intermediate-range missiles, nuclear and non-nuclear? What will be the US’s policy with regard to its participation in the nuclear deal with Iran? (Secretary of State Pompeo has stated that the US is categorically opposed to renewing its participation). And will the US return to the Treaty on Open Skies?
And that by no means exhausts the issues where solutions are subject to various scenarios.
Which makes the contribution of the Luxembourg Forum all the more important in terms of analytical outcomes and the formulation of proposals.
The work of the members of the Supervisory Board and the Advisory Council already includes a number of forward-looking recommendations.
Rose Gottemoeller’s recent article ‘Rethinking Nuclear Arms Control’ contains a very interesting and profound analysis of prospects for a new treaty between USA and Russia. It is a fundamental analysis of the historical experience of Strategic Arms Reduction treaties, in particular the problems and contradictions over the last four years with regard to inconclusive attempts to engage with China and merge strategic and non-strategic arms control. Specific ways forward to resolve these contradictions are proposed, as well as approaches to ensuring reliable control and verification of compliance with treaty requirements on the basis of new possibilities afforded by monitoring from outer space [satellite-based monitoring].
I think that many of you have already studied this article, but if there are any who haven’t had a chance yet, I strongly encourage you to read it.
I once again deem it necessary to reiterate our previous conclusions as to the growing threats of nuclear weapons being used.
The leading specialists of the Forum have embarked on a discussion of scenarios featuring the limited use of such weapons in the context of various regional conflicts, for so-called de-escalation and so on, something which previously seemed absolutely inadmissible.
Nowadays, several decades later, the threat of nuclear weapons being used is all too real. In the words of a very celebrated politician, as the pandemic grips the world, the economy is nose-diving and there is a tense atmosphere in the US around elections, so attention is distracted away from the danger of war. Meanwhile, the nuclear threat has one particularity: it is capable in one moment of making all concerns about any other issues totally irrelevant.
All this calls for intense work by our Forum. I am sure that today other issues will be touched upon in our various contributions, issues to do with the fate of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or attitudes towards the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, with the most recent accession of Honduras bringing the number of state parties to 50, which means that the treaty will enter into force two days after the inauguration of the new US President.
We are duty-bound to endorse Bill Perry’s assessment, when he wrote: ‘It is absolutely essential to intensify dialogue on nuclear threats: as of today, the Luxembourg Forum remains the most important TrackIIdialogue, the objective of which is to forewarn the world of nuclear dangers and to draw up practical ways of reducing these dangers’.I thank you for your attention.