NATO Official Defines Role of Disarmament in Alliance Strategy

NATO has been a bulwark of defense and deterrence in the world for almost 70 years, and disarmament is part of that equation, the NATO deputy secretary general said today at an alliance conference in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Rose Gottemoeller spoke at the 14th Annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction Arms Control, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation.

The Atlantic alliance came into being to prevent wars like the two that killed 90 million people and decimated continents, she said. Part of that effort is supporting pacts that limit or eliminate classes of weapons.

Gottemoeller spoke of the success of the chemical weapons pact signed after the experience of World War I. “We should never forget the horror of chemical weapons that scarred a generation, killing 100,000 soldiers and wounding nearly two million more,” she said. “And while we swore this would never happen again, deadly chemical agents have been used in our time – in Syria, in Malaysia, in Tokyo and in Salisbury [England].”

Nonproliferation Treaty Support

NATO has supported the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “We will continue to do so through to tomorrow,” Gottemoeller said. “NATO allies have stated clearly that they will not support approaches to disarmament that ignore global security conditions or undermine the NPT.”

Allied leaders continue to make the point that arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation must continue to make an essential contribution to achieving security objectives, she said. These concepts are part and parcel of the defense and deterrence strategies of the alliance, Gottemoeller added.

The deputy secretary general said that the threat from weapons of mass destruction persists. North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Russia used chemical weapons in its attacks in the United Kingdom, she said. Nations and terror groups continue to try to develop these weapons. “Ongoing WMD proliferation and the repeated use of chemical weapons by states and nonstate actors erode the norms that we hold dear,” Gottemoeller said.

Just recently, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been the target of cyberattacks. Hackers are using tools to undermine its efforts to get to the bottom of chemicals weapons use in Syria and in England, she said.

Russian Noncompliance

Gottemoeller discussed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The United States has been raising concerns about Russia’s compliance with this treaty since 2014, she said.

“The secretary general and the North Atlantic Council have stood with the United States in support of this treaty from the beginning – and have continued in this vein ever since,” she said.

At NATO’s Brussels Summit in July, allied heads of state expressed strong concerns about Russian noncompliance. “All allies agree that the United States is in full compliance, but the challenge is Russian behavior,” Gottemoeller said. “NATO is in favor of arms control; but to be effective, arms control agreements have to be respected by all parties.”

NATO is united on this point, she said. “We support effective arms control agreements and the established international legal framework surrounding them,” Gottemoeller said. “And we support ongoing talks with Russia.”

She noted the NATO-Russia Council will meet this week and the INF treaty is one of the discussion areas. “The allies have supported disarmament talks, developing proposals to limit and reduce conventional and nuclear weapons and to prevent the spread of all types of weapons of mass destruction,” she said.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis addressed this over the weekend during a discussion with reporters traveling with him. “We will, I’m sure have some kind of culminating point,” he said. “What it will be is still to be determined. Is it material breach and Russia decided to reverse itself? Have they woken up to the danger they put the treaty in? We will have to see, but we are in consultations with our European counterparts.”