Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues, Friends!
Allow me to thank you all for taking part in this conference, held to mark the anniversary of the Luxembourg Forum. Let me remind you that this Forum was established in May 2007 following a conference held in Luxembourg that brought together more than 50 leading international experts from 14 different states, many of whom are now members of the Forum’s Supervisory Board.
The world’s 11 most eminent international organizations dealing with nuclear issues are with us here today, and we will be introducing their leaders and representatives to you over the course of the conference.
Since the very outset, the Forum’s main objectives have been to analyse the most pressing problems relating to the regime of nuclear non-proliferation, to the nuclear arms limitation and reduction processes, to regional nuclear and missile crises, especially in Iran and North Korea, to security of nuclear materials and to the prevention of nuclear terrorism.
In order to do so, over the last 10 years we have organized more than 25 conferences and roundtables involving the world’s most renowned international institutions.
The results of our work have always been presented to the leaders of key states, the UN, the IAEA and other international organizations through declarations and statements containing concrete proposals and recommendations for managing critical situations. We usually receive a response.
Since the Forum’s inception, 24 books and brochures have been published and disseminated.
Along this path we have met with both successes and setbacks. For instance, in December 2015, following a joint conference in Washington of the Luxembourg Forum and the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a well-reasoned Joint statement was sent to the Presidents of the USA and Russia urging them to resume negotiations on the further reduction of strategic nuclear weapons. This drew prompt, but diverging responses. As early as in January of the following year, Washington reiterated its proposal to reduce the number of these weapons by about a third, whereas Moscow set out the reasons standing in the way of a new treaty.
Our proposals have at times been met with only vague responses from a number of addressees. This may be because our arguments were not convincing enough.
We will do better. The members of the Forum’s Supervisory Board will see to that. The Board is made up of distinguished political figures and scientists of international renown. They are all well known to you. Unfortunately, the Board has also lost some of its members. The academician Nikolai Laverov, an outstanding scientist and administrator has passed away. Ever since his time as Deputy Prime-Minister of the Soviet Union and Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Nikolai had a perfect grasp of all the ins-and-outs of nuclear matters. Also, due to an excessive workload, one of the founders of the Forum, Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the IAEA and one-time presidential candidate in Egypt, is unable to continue his activities as a member of the Supervisory Board.
But its ranks are also being replenished. This year, Henry Kissinger joined the Board, and we are certain that he will make a significant contribution to enhancing the Forum’s work.
Every year, the members of the Supervisory Board provide a rather critical assessment of the Forum’s work and recommend relevant issues for further analysis. That is why we can always hope to work more effectively.
That is the current state of the Luxembourg Forum.
I believe I must point out that 2017 has been marked by a previously unimaginable level of uncertainty in almost all areas that fall within the remit of the Luxembourg Forum and its fellow international organizations. Just take this example: next year, the U.S. and Russia are supposed to complete the reduction of their strategic weapons, in accordance with the New START Treaty signed in Prague; however, for the first time in the history of the two nuclear super-powers’ mutual relations, negotiations on further reducing nuclear arsenals are bogged down in stagnation.
Tensions have been mounting due to mutual grievances concerning the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The joint program on surplus plutonium has been frozen, and the joint work of nuclear scientists has been suspended.
Washington is highly critical of the nuclear agreement with Iran, whereas Teheran is threatening to withdraw from the agreement and to resume its weapons programme. The situation on the Korean peninsula is ever tenser and has hit a critical peak due to Kim Jong-Il’s nuclear and missile provocations.
Past experience clearly shows that without negotiations on the limitation of strategic weapons based on the balance of nuclear forces, an uncontrollable arms race towards this most destructive weapon becomes inevitable.
However, it is often said that the relations between Russia and the U.S. in this field are non-existent, but that is an exaggeration. So far, the Prague New START Treaty, which is due to expire in 2021, has been being fully implemented. Every year, the parties carry out dozens of on-site inspections of the other’s land-based launch pads, submarine missile-carriers, heavy bombers, and exchange hundreds of verifiable notifications about the state of their nuclear forces. And there have been no mutual recriminations whatsoever!
Reliable information has emerged about consultations having started on extending the Prague Treaty by 5 years, a possibility foreseen by the Treaty’s text. But it would be far better to sign a new Treaty on the further reduction of strategic nuclear forces.
The main priority now is to preserve the open-ended Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate and Short-Range Missiles, the parties having accumulated mutual grievances concerning compliance with its provisions. Already there are signs that the treaty might be repudiated. The USA appears ready to start preparing to produce weapons types that are prohibited under the INF Treaty.
Terminating this treaty could spell disastrous consequences for Europe, Russia and the United States, because the reasons that compelled the parties to sign it in 1987 carry even more weight in today’s new conditions, threatening all of Europe with a massive nuclear strike. Every so often we hear about fresh consultations aimed at solving the parties’ mutual complaints, but what is really needed is more responsible action from Moscow and Washington.
EU and IAEA leaders welcome the nuclear agreement with Iran and the progress in its implementation, which is reason for optimism concerning the sustainability of the agreement. But that does not mean it isn’t necessary to strictly monitor both its implementation and Iran’s missile programme.
I will not draw out my remarks now by expounding on the situation on the Korean peninsula, you are all aware of it. There will be ample opportunity throughout the conference for views and recommendations on this issue. I would just draw your attention once again to history, which has shown that attempts to placate aggressive, totalitarian regimes tend to lead to catastrophic consequences.
In sum, it must be underscored that, as things stand now, the global situation will in no way help strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime or encourage more joint and closely coordinated actions by leading states to prevent nuclear terrorism.
From what I understand, participants of our conference have concrete proposals to make for addressing the challenges in these fields, which is why I wish us every success.
Once again, I would like to thank all of you for coming to this conference.
Thank you for your attention.