15 September 2000
Text: Grey Says Calls for Outer Space Treaty Talks Are "Unwise"
Limited U.S. NMD system would not deploy space-based weapons
The U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in
Geneva says that the insistence by some CD members that negotiations
on a new Outer Space Treaty begin immediately is both "unwise and
Ambassador Robert Grey told the forum on September 14 that the limited
National Missile Defense (NMD) system the United States is contemplating
deploying sometime in the future to defend the 50 American states against
"a small-scale ballistic missile attack from certain countries of concern"
is definitely not aimed at defending against Russian or Chinese ballistic
Grey said he is puzzled by the intensity of concerns being expressed
in the CD. "We reject allegations that actions or plans of the United
States attest to a desire for hegemony, or any intent to carry out
nuclear blackmail, or any supposed quest for absolute freedom to use
force or threaten to use force in international relations," he said.
Such assertions "have no basis in reality," Grey said because a
limited NMD "does not give anyone 'hegemony.'" Today, he said,
hegemony "is unattainable in any case" because the world is too
diverse, complex and open to new ideas for hegemony (to succeed).
"The era of empires is over, as is the era of one-party States," Grey
said. "information and ideas cannot be controlled by any party or by
any government. People of all backgrounds have the opportunity, the
capability, and the right to make up their own minds. Rote repetition
of slogans and cliches that distort reality cannot change this
essential fact," he said.
U.S. plans for a possible limited NMD, Grey said "do not involve
emplacing any weapon in outer space. To the contrary, the missile
defense system we are considering is essentially a terrestrial system
that would use land-based interceptors, launchers and radars."
Grey also told members "there is no arms race in outer space -- nor
any prospect of an arms race in outer space, for as far down the road
as anyone can see."
Following is the text of Grey's remarks:
Statement by Ambassador Robert T. Grey, Jr., United States
Representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, September 14,
Mr. President, I regret to be compelled to speak again at this stage
of our deliberations, but the statement just made by the distinguished
representative of China must be addressed promptly.
The ABM Treaty
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was concluded in 1972 by the
United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
It was negotiated and signed in a very different era, under political
and military circumstances which are now a matter of history and which
have little to do with the world today.
The Treaty has been amended before and can be amended again. The
amendments that the United States is proposing will bring the Treaty
up to date. They will also enable it to continue fulfilling its
essential purpose: Making sure that the strategic nuclear deterrent
forces of the United States and of the Russian Federation are not
threatened by missile defense capabilities of the other country. This
basic understanding makes it possible for the United States and the
Russian Federation to continue our mutual reductions in offensive
nuclear arms, and to negotiate further agreements for that purpose.
As a political and diplomatic reality dating from 1972, the ABM Treaty
regime did not contemplate the new threats that are emerging now and
that affect the safety and well-being of the people of the United
States. If the ABM Treaty regime were to fail, the responsibility for
that -- and for all the results that might ensue -- would rest with
those who were insisting that the regime had to remain static and
could not be adapted to meet current realities.
In diplomacy, as in real life, factors that do not continue to evolve
and grow are ultimately doomed to decline and die.
National Missile Defense
When I spoke on August 31, I emphasized that the limited system of
National Missile Defense which the United States government is
considering would defend the people of the United States against a
small-scale ballistic missile attack from certain countries of
concern. I also stated quite explicitly that this limited system of
National Missile Defense is not designed to defend against the
ballistic missiles of Russia or China.
With these realities in mind, I am puzzled at the intensity of the
concerns that have been expressed.
We reject allegations that actions or plans of the United States
attest to a desire for hegemony, or any intent to carry out nuclear
blackmail, or any supposed quest for absolute freedom to use force or
threaten to use force in international relations.
These assertions have no basis in reality. A limited system of
National Missile Defense does not give anyone "hegemony." Indeed, in
today's world "hegemony" is unattainable in any case. The world is too
diverse, too complex, too open to new ideas for "hegemony."
The era of empires is over, as is the era of one-party States.
Information and ideas cannot be controlled by any Party or by any
government. People of all backgrounds have the opportunity, the
capability, and the right to make up their own minds. Rote repetition
of slogans and clichés that distort reality cannot change this
In the end, Mr. President, the plans of the United States are exactly
as I have described them. That is all they are, and there is nothing
more to infer or imply.
In the agenda adopted on January 18 by the 66 Member States of the
Conference on Disarmament, the third item reads as follows:
"Prevention of an arms race in outer space."
The United States agrees that it is appropriate for the Conference to
keep this topic under review. On the other hand, we have repeatedly
pointed out that there is no arms race in outer space -- nor any
prospect of an arms race in outer space, for as far down the road as
anyone can see.
In the statement I gave on August 31, I explained that the United
States is committed to the exploration and use of outer space by all
nations for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humanity.
This is specifically provided in our National Space Policy.
It would serve no useful purpose to repeat all the remarks I made on
August 31, but I recommend that statement to anyone who desires to
review the facts. One salient point may bear repeating: Plans of the
United States for a possible system of National Missile Defense do not
involve emplacing any weapon in outer space. To the contrary, the
missile defense system we are considering is essentially a terrestrial
system that would use land-based interceptors, launchers, and radars.
Satellites of whatever description are not weapons. Any discussion of
the overall purposes and functions of satellites could not be limited
to a small number that might provide early warning information or data
about threat missiles. As I pointed out on August 31, many countries
have satellites orbiting the earth that provide various types of data
for military purposes to ships, aircraft, and ground forces worldwide.
This includes some Members of the Conference who are strong advocates
of active negotiations on a new outer space treaty.
Discussions in a subordinate body of the Conference would have to take
this reality into account. In a broader sense, such discussions would
have to grapple with the need to enhance international peace and
security while simultaneously protecting the security interests of
states that have substantial assets in outer space and that carry out
important activities there.
These questions are not trivial. Nor are they easy to answer. Until
the Member States of the Conference have worked out answers that
satisfy us all, it serves no constructive purpose to insist that the
Conference must conduct negotiations on a new outer space treaty.
Much energy has been devoted to developing an overall menu of
activities, so the Conference on Disarmament can finally get down to
substantive work. Although I deeply regret that these efforts did not
succeed in the year 2000, the proposals of two former Presidents of
the Conference -- Ambassador Lint of Belgium and Ambassador Amorim of
Brazil -- have given all of us substantial hope for early agreement in
The plain and simple fact is that all Members of the Conference have
committed themselves to supporting negotiations on a Fissile Material
Cutoff Treaty. In addition, they have already agreed on terms of
reference for such negotiations.
Many successive Presidents of the Conference have reached the
conclusion that a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty is ripe for
negotiations in the Conference, whereas nuclear disarmament and outer
space are not.
There has not yet been agreement on the wording of draft mandates for
subordinate bodies that would deal with nuclear disarmament and outer
space. On the other hand, Member States appear to be very close to
reaching agreement on terms of reference that would permit thorough
and far-reaching discussions.
If we are to speak of overall priorities, it is important to bear in
mind that many Members of the Conference attach very great importance
to the establishment of a subordinate body on nuclear disarmament. The
United States is not among that group of countries, but we share their
commitment to the underlying long-term goal. Further, we understand
their desire that the Conference address the subject of nuclear
disarmament in a structured and systematic way.
Over the past two years, the delegation of the United States has made
substantial efforts to reach a compromise that would accommodate this
desire of theirs. As I said on August 31, I am confident that if the
terms of reference for consideration of nuclear disarmament were the
only outstanding issue, Member States could resolve it expeditiously.
In practice, it is the unwise and unrealistic insistence on immediate
negotiations on a new outer space treaty that keeps the Conference
from establishing an appropriate subordinate body to discuss nuclear
The longstanding deadlock likewise prevents negotiations on a Fissile
Material Cutoff Treaty, and I have repeatedly expressed intense
concern about that.
As a final paradox, the unwise and unrealistic insistence on immediate
negotiations on a new outer space treaty also prevents the Conference
from conducting organized and sustained discussions on outer space
issues. In other words, insistence on immediate negotiations on a new
outer space treaty is actually blocking a necessary step that would
have to occur before any such negotiations could conceivably begin.
This is counter-productive, at best. But even that amounts to a
serious understatement. After all, the word counter-productive implies
that delegations who have taken a certain position really do wish to
produce constructive results.
To us, at least, this seems to be an unwise and unwarranted
assumption. Instead, we believe that the delegations employing these
tactics may actually intend to produce utter paralysis, for the sake
of blocking negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. And if,
in practice, the tactics of these delegations likewise prevent the
Conference from conducting organized deliberations on nuclear
disarmament, they appear to be entirely willing to sacrifice that
priority of a wide range of other Member States.
Mr. President, I realize that this is a stark analysis -- and a rather
unpleasant one. But in all frankness I must submit to you, sir, that
the analysis I have given is neither more stark, nor more unpleasant,
than the excruciating and extended paralysis that still afflicts the
Thank you, Mr. President.
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