Nuclear Policy and Negotiations in the 21st Century
Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership & Public Policy, University of New Hampshire School of Law
Concord, New Hampshire
November 6, 2014
Good Afternoon. Thank you, John, for the kind introduction. Thank you very much for inviting me to join you at here at the Rudman Center. I was last here in May of 2013 to talk about export control reform with Senator Jeanne Shaheen. I am glad to be back to talk about arms control and nonproliferation negotiations in the 21st century.
While we are gathered here tonight in Concord, the world is facing serious challenges: the threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and Russia’s flagrant disregard for international law, the continuing conflicts in the Middle East, a dangerous Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has travelled to our shores. It is not surprising that most people are not focused on nuclear weapons or nuclear deterrence.
When the Cold War ended, the looming threat of nuclear war seemed to drift away for the average American. When was the last time you even heard of someone doing a duck-and-cover drill or building a bomb shelter in their backyard? Unfortunately, there are still thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons in the world. The threat from these weapons is real and I would argue that it has become more serious due to the threat from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists.
That is why this Administration, like the Administrations before it, is working so hard to reduce the nuclear threat. One of the steps in that process was the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) – a Treaty for which I led the U.S. negotiating team.
In negotiating New START, we knew that it was necessary to replace the expiring START Treaty with a new agreement reflecting progress in arms control and the changes in the world in the 20 years since START came into force.
This was no small task and it took many, many months to complete, but we were successful and in December of 2010, the Senate gave its advice and consent to its ratification. The implementation of this Treaty is now well underway and when it is completed, we will have the lowest levels of deployed strategic nuclear arms since the 1950’s.
As we now look to the future of arms control and nonproliferation agreements and treaties, it is important to recognize that we will need a host of new technical and legal experts to conduct these discussions. It is true that diplomacy is an art, not a science, but there are a number of reliable tools upon which I rely during negotiations.
One: Building Relationships
First, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building good, professional relationships. With the New START Treaty, the two delegations launched into the negotiations committed to conducting them in an atmosphere of mutual respect with a premium on keeping the tone businesslike and productive, even when we did not agree. My counterpart on the Russian delegation, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, always used to say, “business is business.” And what he meant was that we needed to keep the tone of the discussion businesslike even when we were butting heads – as we frequently did.
We also were very aware of the role of a human gesture. Even things as simple as acknowledging national holidays, cultural and sport events are important. The Vancouver Olympics were going on while were in Geneva for New START, and we cheered on each other’s teams. Well, maybe not each other’s hockey teams.
Also, never underestimate the power of a smile or a joke. You would be very surprised about how much a well-placed joke can help move talks along.
Two: Establishing Trust
Second, building relationships is one thing, but establishing trust is another, and it takes longer. Between negotiating teams, it is pivotal and more difficult than it sounds. In our case, we had over a year to get to know our counterparts. Further, members of both delegations brought valuable experience to the table, having worked as inspectors under START. They had inspected each other’s ICBM bases, SLBM bases, heavy bomber bases, and storage facilities multiple times. They regarded each other as professionals. That helped to establish trust.
One of the most important very important things is that our delegations agreed to disagree in private. That was good considering how easily either delegation could have broadcast negative comments that would have reached Moscow or Washington before we could pick up a phone.
Trying to work out issues and disagreements through the press is – as you can imagine – is not a great model for success.
So make sure the people you are working with know that they can trust you. Trust is the foundation of any good agreement.
Three: Creating Value for Both Sides
Third, and particularly important right now, is the fact that negotiations should not be a zero-sum game. The point is to negotiate for mutual benefit. When we finished negotiating New START, then-President Medvedev referred to it as a “win-win” situation. That should always be our goal.
This is especially important for multilateral discussions, but harder to accomplish. No one will ever get everything they want – the point is to come away with a fair deal all-around. You may not get a “win-win” situation all the time, but you can avoid a situation where parties come away from a negotiation feeling that they have lost.
It may seem simple, but another key to negotiating is listening.
During New START, it really helped that we spoke each other’s languages. I am very proud to say that there were probably as many Russian speakers on the U.S. delegation as there were English speakers on the Russian delegation. For me, hearing things twice helped me to listen to things extra well.
It is also something you probably heard from your mothers, but you also need to make sure you are really listening to people and not just waiting for your turn to talk. You might miss something important!
Five: Negotiating Process AND Substance
In addition to negotiating skills, you also need expertise on the substance. One of the things that made the New START negotiations work smoothly was the fact that we had experienced diplomats and experienced inspectors, as well as weapon systems operators. All of them had to work together.
You can negotiate beautiful language, but if you don’t understand the ins and outs of an inspection on the ground, imprecise language in the treaty can come back to haunt you. But you also need room for flexibility. You may think you understand exactly how to inspect a re-entry vehicle on a missile, but you need to tread lightly when codifying the requirement to conduct such an inspection in a treaty. An inspector also needs room to use his or her judgment.
You always have to think about both the big picture and the little details: it’s a balancing act.
Six: Be Thorough and Be Prepared
Finally, it is important to remember that every negotiation is different. While the START negotiations from over 20 years ago informed our approach, we were in a completely new era with New START. We had to think about what worked and didn’t work for previous treaties, without letting that bind our creativity.
One of the great strengths of the New START Treaty rested on the fact that we took into account the broad perspectives of the State Department, the Department of Defense, the uniformed military, the Department of Energy, and other agencies, from the very beginning and at every step throughout the negotiations. It was a true inter-agency effort from day one until the day it entered into force and that cooperation continues, as we work to implement the Treaty.
Dealing with Difficulties
Even with the tools that I have discussed in hand, there were some days during the New START negotiations that were very rough and very long. Beyond that, I like to joke that I went through two sets of negotiations- one with the Russian Federation and one with the Senate. We had a tough, vigorous debate up on Capitol Hill, but in the process, I think we rekindled some important interest in arms control and nonproliferation issues.
In the end, the hard work paid off. New START is enhancing our national security, as well as strategic stability with Russia. The current tensions with Russia highlight the importance of mutual confidence provided by data exchanges and on-site inspections under the Treaty, and the security and predictability provided by verifiable, mutual limits on strategic weapons.
As we look to the future with respect to future nuclear reduction agreements, the United States will only pursue agreements that are in our national security interest and that of our allies. Historically, the United States and Russia have always been able to continue our work to reduce nuclear threats. That fact should not change.
The United States has made clear that we are prepared to engage Russia on the full range of issues affecting strategic stability and that there are real and meaningful steps we should be taking that can contribute to a more predictable and safer security environment.
In June 2013 in Berlin, President Obama stated U.S. willingness to negotiate a reduction of up to one-third of our deployed strategic warheads from the level established in the New START Treaty.
Progress requires a willing partner and a conducive strategic environment.
As I have said, no one here should doubt that we are in a difficult crisis period with Russia, but we need nuclear cooperation with Russia and others to address global threats – first and foremost the threat of terrorists acquiring a nuclear weapon or nuclear material.
The reason we can and must continue to pursue arms control and nonproliferation tools is that they are the best - and quite frankly - the only path that we can take to effectively prevent a terrorist nuclear threat and reduce nuclear dangers more broadly.
That will take new, and I am sure, difficult negotiations.
With that I would like to wrap up and take some questions, but I want to leave you with some final thoughts. With all the challenges in the world, it is sometimes easy to despair, but I assure you that through hard work, humor, patience and persistence, we can meet and solve these challenges.
One of our less-quoted presidents, Calvin Coolidge had a quote about persistence that I often think of:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
That is what I think about when I think about the next set of negotiations in front of me. Whether that involves the next steps in nuclear reductions or banning the production of the fissile material used in nuclear weapons, we will be patient, but we will be persistent. Progress will not only require building on the success of New START, but new and innovative approaches to the challenges we face…and some really good negotiating. Thank you.