09 June 2000
Interview: Grey Describes "Real Progress" in Arms Control
(U.S. envoy says Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty needed) (2700)
Ambassador Robert Grey, U.S. representative to the Conference on
Disarmament (CD), says that although there is an illusion "that
nothing is happening" in the realm of arms control, "the reality is
"Arms control is happening all the time," he told Washington File
Correspondent Wendy Lubetkin in an interview in Geneva, Switzerland,
June 7. "Real progress" is occurring, he said, pointing out that the
numbers of U.S. and Russian strategic weapon systems "are diminishing
rapidly as we talk."
"The reality is that we are probably doing more arms control now than
we have ever done," Grey said. People need to understand "that a lot
of the work we are doing with the Russians is not generally well
known," he said. "We are spending several million dollars" to assist
them in disposing of weapons and protecting their stockpiles.
Grey also said that the main U.S. objective for the Geneva-based
Conference on Disarmament is the successful negotiation of a treaty to
ban the production of fissile materials. "We have all agreed for years
that an FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty) was the first priority,
so we think we should start negotiating on that now," he said.
Following is the transcript of the Grey interview:
QUESTION: What will be the arms control priorities of the United
States in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) during the remainder of
the year and what are the main obstacles to achieving those goals?
AMBASSADOR GREY: The main objective we have had here for several years
is unchanged. We want to get a negotiation started on a ban on the
production of fissile materials, the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty
(FMCT). This has been our objective for the past five years. We attach
a great deal of importance to it. And we hope that finally maybe we
can get the CD's procedural logjam broken and negotiations started.
The problem is that there are other delegations which are pressing for
a more active engagement on nuclear disarmament and for a negotiation
preventing the militarization of outer space. Neither one of these are
issues that we think the CD is in a position to handle at this time.
We are not interested in multilateral negotiations on these two
particular subjects, so we are continuing to try to agree on a work
program that will get us started on FMCT and maybe enable us to
discuss the possibilities of what we could do with the other two at
some future date. But they are certainly not ripe for negotiation now.
Q: During the effort to negotiate a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT) one of the main obstacles was the effort by some nations to
link those very specific negotiations to other topics. Are similar
linkages now blocking the commencement of negotiations on an FMCT?
AMBASSADOR GREY: This is exactly the same thing. The Chinese allege
that they would like to see negotiations on all three subjects within
the CD -- the demilitarization of outer space, multilateral nuclear
disarmament, and the FMCT -- and that they should all be treated
equally. We think there is a substantive difference. We have all
agreed for years that FMCT was the first priority, so we think we
should start negotiating on that now. On the others, the best outcome
would be to discuss what the possibilities are. Is there anything that
could be usefully done in the CD on these subjects? Frankly, we are
Q: Why does the United States believe that the demilitarization of
outer space, and nuclear disarmament, are not ripe for negotiations in
the CD at this time?
AMBASSADOR GREY: We have always taken the position that in nuclear
disarmament the principal negotiations will be for the foreseeable
future between the United States and the Russian Federation. And it is
complicated enough to get agreement between those two countries. As
you know, START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) II was finally
ratified by the Duma. Even in a bilateral relationship, where the
rules of the game are pretty clearly understood, progress in nuclear
disarmament is difficult to achieve. We think there is no possibility
at this stage of the game of negotiating in a multilateral forum on
nuclear disarmament. The best way forward is for us and the Russians
to keep bringing the numbers down and ultimately, over time, when the
numbers get low enough, be joined by the Chinese, the French, and the
British in driving the numbers still lower down, and only then would
we be willing to consider bringing it into the CD or some other
multilateral forum. So that's just the most practical way to proceed.
This is an incremental step-by-step process; it is not something that
one can do all at once and clearly it is hard enough to negotiate at
2. One can barely contemplate how difficult it would be at 66.
Now on the question of outer space, frankly there is no arms race in
outer space as far as we are concerned. We don't see anything that
could be usefully served in trying to negotiate on that. We have a
space treaty which bans the placing of weapons of mass destruction in
outer space; we think that is sufficient. And so we are very skeptical
about the need to negotiate anything in the CD or anywhere else in
Q: Do you see any indication that the logjam could be broken this
year, and what will be the impact on the prestige and viability of the
Conference on Disarmament if the deadlock continues?
AMBASSADOR GREY: Well, there have been logjams before that have lasted
for a considerable time. We have had five or six successful
negotiations over the last two or three decades. There are periods
when progress is difficult. Other events outside the CD obviously
shape the agenda. So continued stalemate is frustrating, but I think
that at the end of the day we'll get the CD back to doing what it is
supposed to do, which is to negotiate multilateral arms control
treaties. And obviously the first candidate is the FMCT treaty, which
everyone agrees is the next logical step in multilateral arms control.
So while it is frustrating and annoying that we can't get going, I
don't think at the end of the day that it will be fatal to the
Conference on Disarmament. I think we will get a negotiation
We cannot have nuclear disarmament without an FMCT agreement. If
countries continue to produce fissile material that can be used for
nuclear weapons, you can't have total and complete nuclear
disarmament. You need to stop the production and gradually reduce the
stockpiles, which is what we are trying to do in an FMCT negotiation.
Therefore, ultimately and inevitably this agreement has to be
negotiated, and it will be negotiated in the CD just like the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT). So while it may take time, we have to be a little
Q: Why does the U.S. consider the CD to be important to its overall
AMBASSADOR GREY: It has really a bigger role in arms control than in
non-proliferation. I would think that the fundamental objective here
is to control the weapons, and of course non-proliferation contributes
to that, but it is 50/50: -you have to have a little of each to get
progress. But the CD has proven its value over the last several
decades because almost every major multilateral arms control agreement
that we have achieved has come through the CD. It is the logical place
to do it. If it didn't exist, you'd have to invent it.
Q: How is the discussion in the U.S. about the possibility of a
limited National Missile Defense affecting discussions within the CD?
AMBASSADOR GREY: The Chinese are very concerned about it. They claim
that negotiations to prevent the militarization of outer space are the
most crucial concern they have. They claim that they have to have a
negotiation on that in the Conference on Disarmament and appear to be
blocking progress on any other negotiation until they get that. So
obviously it is having a negative impact in that sense.
The reality is that no treaty is 100 percent effective forever.
Treaties have to be adjusted to reflect changing times and changing
circumstances. I think there is a growing appreciation that there is a
perceptible threat out there that we have identified as something a
limited ballistic missile defense system could conceivably protect us
from. That is the threat of the so-called rogue states. But clearly
this is an unsettling proposition for a number of countries because it
means that a number of things come into play. Some people might think
that their strategic systems will be in some way less effective
because this shield exists, although the shield is designed to protect
against only 40 or 50 missiles. When you have a couple of thousand, it
doesn't have much impact. But there is a lot of expense involved here.
There is a lot of concern that it might de-couple the United States
from Europe. There is a lot of concern that it could have some impact
in terms of the relationship between the Chinese and the Japanese, and
above all, there is the concern that this kind of technology, which is
terribly expensive and costly, can upset people's plans for defense
and their military spending in ways that are unpredictable.
Q: You've just returned from the NPT Review Conference. What lessons
do you think can be drawn from it?
AMBASSADOR GREY: I think it was a successful outcome. We agreed to a
forward-looking statement that reiterated the importance that we all
attach to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and we did this following a
difficult time when two countries proceeded to test. The signatories
to the NPT reiterated a commitment to the treaty. They made it clear
that the only way that the nations not currently participating in the
NPT can participate is as non-nuclear states, not as nuclear states.
And, we reaffirmed our commitment to the process of moving ahead
toward a world that is going to be free of nuclear weapons. So it was
a significant achievement in the face of some pretty discouraging
events, with two countries going nuclear in the five-year period
leading up to the Review Conference.
Q: U.S. arms control officials take every opportunity to express
commitment to the universality of the NPT. How is the United States
working behind the scenes to express that commitment and to bring
other countries on board?
AMBASSADOR GREY: Well, we are trying to persuade both India and
Pakistan that it is in everyone's interest to join this regime as a
non-nuclear weapons state. Now this is obviously difficult in the
context of India and Pakistan. But we have made the point repeatedly
and will continue to make it. We cannot have normal, effective,
businesslike relations with countries that are non-adherents to the
NPT. It just is not possible to have the same kind of a relationship
with them that you have with other countries. We have made that clear.
This cuts across the whole variety of the areas of concern.
Q: Is the United States working with India and Pakistan to narrow our
differences on non-proliferation and, if so, how are we doing so?
AMBASSADOR GREY: We are having intense conversations with both
countries, trying to persuade them not to field these weapons or to
further test them or test missiles designed to go with them, and we
are trying to persuade them that ultimately the only way forward is to
join the NPT as non-nuclear states. Whether we will be successful in
that or not remains to be seen.
Q: Do you think that there are lessons that other nations could take
from the fact that South Africa has voluntarily stepped away from
being a nuclear-weapon capable state?
AMBASSADOR GREY: I would say that the South African model is a good
one. It already has had an impact and that is, of course, that both
Brazil and Argentina have taken a hard look at whether or not the
nuclear option made sense to them and they both decided to join the
NPT as non-nuclear states. I think the South African example is one
that was demonstrably of interest to those two countries and to others
as well. The fact of the matter is that there are only a few states
outside the NPT at the moment.
Q: What do you think about the recent suggestion that there should be
an international conference on nuclear disarmament, which would be
separate and apart from the NPT Review Conference?
AMBASSADOR GREY: We don't think it is a very good idea at all. We have
plenty of conferences to discuss these things. You have the General
Assembly of the United Nations. You have the U.N. Disarmament
Commission. You have the Conference on Disarmament. You have all sorts
of places. The last thing we need is still another conference. What we
need are some positive negotiations. The best contribution the
membership of the United Nations could make on this issue would be to
get the CD down to work on negotiating an FMCT.
Q: So in the U.S. view, the FMCT is the next logical step in arms
AMBASSADOR GREY: Absolutely, in terms of multilateral arms control.
Obviously the START III negotiations between the Russian Federation
and the United States are very important, and obviously we need to
make progress on that and we will.
Q: What has the Russian Duma's ratification of START II done for the
hopes of arms controllers, and do you expect further strategic
reductions to pick up speed now?
AMBASSADOR GREY: My expectation is that now that START II has been
ratified by the Duma, we can proceed to get to work on a START III
agreement. The START III numbers will be substantially lower than what
we agreed in START II. The numbers could be anywhere from 2,500 down
to 2,000, and some say the Russians are even prepared to go to 1,500.
So the numbers will drop and it will be a significant step forward.
After START III, we may be in a position where we will have reduced
our nuclear holdings on both sides by around 80 percent.
Q: Do you think that arms control in general is on the wane or in a
period of ascendancy?
AMBASSADOR GREY: Arms control is happening all the time. The numbers
of both American systems and Russian systems are diminishing rapidly
as we talk. Fissile material is being eliminated, being put under
international safeguards and blended down so that it can only be used
for commercial purposes. The reality is that we are probably doing
more arms control now than we have ever done. The problem is that it
is not encapsulated in formal negotiations or formal settings like the
CD or in ongoing bilateral relations, but it is occurring every day of
the week. There is an illusion that nothing is happening, but the
reality is quite different. And I think that is something that people
have to understand -- that a lot of the work we are doing with the
Russians is not generally well known. We are spending several million
dollars to assist them in protecting their stockpiles and disposing of
these weapons, etc, etc. This is real progress as opposed to talk.
Q: Critics of the United States sometimes say that we are only
periodically committed to arms control just before the NPT conference
each time it rolls around. How would you respond?
AMBASSADOR GREY: Well that is just nonsense. If you look at the record
of what we have done over the past ten years or since the end of the
Cold War, it is a huge accomplishment. And it's a systematic one. And
frankly, we put our money where our mouth is. A lot of people just
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