Ambassador Davies Speech

“The U.S. Mission to the UN in Vienna: Current Goals and the Road Ahead”

Remarks by Ambassador Glyn Davies to The Austro-American Society

This event was organized in cooperation with Webster University
Austro-American Society American Chamber of Commerce in Vienna

Thank you for your introduction, Ms. Salazar, and to Mr. Huber, Dr. Leiderman, and the Austro-American Society for inviting me to speak today.  In my role as Ambassador to the United Nations agencies in Vienna, I frequently speak to international audiences, but even though I live in Vienna, it is not often that I have the opportunity to speak with an Austrian audience.

One exception was an address I made a few months ago to the Bruno Kreisky Forum, which I greatly enjoyed.  Kreisky was a true visionary and I am thankful that he had the foresight to bring the United Nations to Vienna.  I hope that his vision of Vienna as a world city and center for multilateral institutions has been vindicated by Austrians’ experiences over the decades.  But as I said, speaking for the thousands of diplomats, staff and international civil servants who have the very great pleasure to live and work in Vienna, we count ourselves lucky to spend part of our professional lives in such a spectacular city and country.

As for the Austro-American Society, I know it has a long history of fostering friendship and collaboration between Austrians and Americans, and I am pleased to be part of that collaboration by joining you here tonight. Thank you very much for your invitation.

Multilateral Solutions to Global Threats: Nuclear Nonproliferation

The U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna works with the half-dozen UN agencies headquartered here.  The key issues we handle are nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, and fighting organized crime and drug trafficking.  We work to implement multilateral solutions to global threats, especially threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation.

President Obama has made a strong commitment to reducing the threats posed by nuclear weapons.   In April of 2009, in Prague, he made a strong, straightforward statement of principle: “I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

That commitment has intensified U.S. efforts to counter the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the threat posed by those weapons that still exist.  These efforts include seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, supporting the creation of an international fuel bank so that countries can access peaceful power, and insuring that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the resources and support it needs.

Since outlining his strategy in the Spring of last year in Prague, President Obama has convened two of the most significant meetings of world leaders in the past 50 years in support of reducing the threats posed by nuclear proliferation.

First, he chaired the UN Security Council Summit in September 2009.  That Summit unanimously adopted a resolution committing to working toward a world without nuclear weapons and endorsing a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers.  That session was only the fifth Summit-level meeting of the Council in its 63 years of existence and the first time a U.S. President chaired a meeting of the Security Council.

Second, he hosted the Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010, which was the largest gathering of Heads of State and Government in the United States since the United Nations was founded in 1945.  This Nuclear Security Summit was the first ever of its scale and level devoted exclusively to the unprecedented threat that nuclear materials could reach the hands of terrorists or criminals.

In addition to the two summits President Obama convened, the United States has continued to work in established multilateral settings to counter nuclear proliferation.  One element of the President’s plan to do so includes strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – or NPT – by strengthening international inspections, and applying real and immediate consequences to countries that break the rules or leave the treaty without cause.  In May 2010, at the NPT Review Conference, the U.S. reaffirmed the NPT with other nations, including full implementation of its 3 major goals, namely:

  • Countries with nuclear weapons will move to disarm.
  • Countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them.
  • All countries should have access to peaceful nuclear energy.

On that last point, a major issue for countries seeking to develop nuclear technologies is access to nuclear fuel.  Many countries don’t have the resources to enrich nuclear fuel, and it would be a significant proliferation concern should more countries try to enrich fuel.

One solution the U.S. supports is to create an international fuel bank.  We are working with other IAEA Members to formally propose the fuel bank at the next Board of Governors meeting in December.  This IAEA bank could supply fuel to approximately 60 countries.  The United States has pledged $50 million to support such a bank.

What the U.S. is Doing

At the same time that the U.S. Government has been working multilaterally through the IAEA and in settings like the two international summits and the NPT Review Conference, we have also been working at home to do our part to reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation.  President Obama pledged that the U.S. will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our own national security strategy.  The United States has taken several significant steps to do so.  I’ll give you a few examples:

  • First, the U.S. is substantially reducing our warheads and stockpiles.  In May 2010, for the first time, President Obama declassified the numbers of our nuclear stockpiles.  As of September 2009, the U.S. had 5113 nuclear warheads in stockpile.  That represents an 84% reduction from 1967, when stockpile was at its largest.  Several thousand more warheads are currently retired and awaiting dismantlement.
  • Second, in April 2010, the U.S. released the Nuclear Posture Review, in which the U.S. changed previous policy by declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapons states that belong to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and are in compliance with their obligations to the treaty.   We said again we will no longer conduct nuclear testing and we will not develop new nuclear warheads.
  • Third, President Obama signed New START with Russia, and we are working to ratify it.  New START will require the United States and Russia to reduce — by 30 percent below the levels in a treaty signed in 2002 — the number of nuclear warheads deployed on missiles, submarines, and bombers.

Now, the goal of creating a world free of nuclear weapons is idealistic, and we have no illusions it will be easy to achieve.  But the agenda that our President has outlined is not abstract – the U.S. is taking concrete steps to achieve that agenda.  It is also not one-sided — demanding of other countries what the U.S. is not doing itself.  Finally, it does not target specific countries or regions – it creates the same responsibilities and benefits for all nations and peoples.

Current Threat to Global Nuclear Security: Iran

But the world remains a dangerous place.  And a few countries reject our call to move toward a world without nuclear bombs.  North Korea, Syria and Iran are the states of greatest concern.  And at a time when the overwhelming majority of nations is working together to reduce the threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation, the biggest current threat to global nuclear security is Iran.

Why is that so? Let me explain why Iran is such a problem.  Iran is a threat because it is not upholding its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses to show that its nuclear program is peaceful.  At the most recent IAEA Board of Governors meeting in September here in Vienna, the IAEA Director General, Mr. Amano, issued his latest report on Iran.  The report shows Iran is not only refusing to comply with its international obligations, but it continues to expand its nuclear program and strengthen its ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran refuses to answer the IAEA’s questions or allow the Agency to talk to the people they need to talk to, not only with respect to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, but also with Iran’s ongoing expansion of its uranium enrichment program.  Iran’s refusal to provide clear responses, or in some cases any responses, to the IAEA’s questions about military nuclear research and undeclared nuclear sites has left the Agency unable to confirm that all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program are peaceful.

Now, I submit to you that we cannot live with an Iran that is moving closer and closer to a nuclear weapons capability.  We must do everything diplomatically possible to prevent Iran from developing such weapons.  That is true not just because Iran is dangerously challenging the United Nations , the Non-Proliferation Treaty, its own neighbors and indeed the entire world with its nuclear provocation.  Its actions are also undercutting the nuclear non-proliferation regime at precisely the moment we and many others are seeking to strengthen it.

So this is a challenge we cannot afford to ignore.

And it’s a challenge we have been trying to resolve peacefully for almost two years.  Last year, the United States tried in earnest to engage Iran diplomatically.  We sought out opportunities to discuss its nuclear program with Iran and worked to bring about international consensus on the dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Iran and how to address those dangers.  The foreign ministers and other senior representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China (the P5+1) have led the efforts to discuss with Iran its nuclear program, and to convince Tehran to meet its international obligations and demonstrate that its program is peaceful.

Last October, we supported a proposal by the IAEA to help produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, or TRR.  The TRR has been in operation for decades, used for basic research and for producing medical isotopes for cancer diagnosis and cure.  It operates under strict IAEA safeguards.  In June, 2009, Iran told the IAEA the last supply of fuel for this reactor was going to run out by the end of 2010, and it asked the IAEA for help in getting fuel for the reactor.

So the United States, France, and Russia, the so-called “Vienna Group” countries, joined together in a proposal negotiated with Iran under IAEA leadership to send Iran’s own low-enriched uranium (which we call by the acronym “LEU”) to Russia for enrichment and then to France for fabrication into fuel, which would be returned to Iran for use in the safeguarded TRR reactor.

At the time, this plan would have significantly reduced Iran’s available uranium stockpile, thus helping to reestablish confidence within the international community.  It would have also of course addressed a humanitarian need of the Iranian people.  But the main point is that it would serve as a confidence-building measure to create an opportunity for further dialogue on a range of issues with Tehran.

But it didn’t work.  Iran rejected the Vienna Group proposal.  Instead, Iran has continued to develop a nuclear enrichment facility near Qom, and has announced plans for ten new enrichment facilities.  It has refused to continue discussions with the P5+1 about its nuclear program.  It expanded its uranium enrichment from 3.5% to 20% strength.  While Iran claims to be producing this material for use as fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, Iran has no demonstrated capability to produce fuel and use it safely in a reactor.  Enrichment to 20%, however, would make it much easier to take the small additional step of producing weapons-grade uranium.

So where did that leave us?  Iran refused to meet its international obligations.  It rejected offers of engagement.  And it continued expansion of its nuclear program.  All of that led us to conclude we had to employ economic and political pressure.  We coordinated at the UN in New York to pass UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which established the most comprehensive international sanctions that the government of Iran has ever faced.

This resolution reinforced the determination of the international community to hold Iran to its international obligations and to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.  The United States complemented multilateral sanctions with our own bilateral sanctions, and with our support for other countries’ sanctions, such as Australia, Canada, and the EU.

Now, we know sanctions and pressure are a means to an end, and not a substitute for a diplomatic solution.  We therefore continue to acknowledge Iran’s right to pursue civilian nuclear power, but also continue to point out that with that right is the responsibility to reassure the international community about the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s intentions.

At the UN General Assembly in New York in September, President Obama emphasized the U.S. desire for a diplomatic solution.  He said, “The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.”

Also in New York during the General Assembly, Secretary Clinton met with her P5+1 counterparts to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.  EU High Representative Catherine Ashton delivered a statement on behalf of the P5+1.  She expressed the desire and the readiness of the P5+1 to meet with Iran, an invitation that the P5+1 has extended to Iran for a year now. Within that context, the six nations, led by the EU, also signaled a willingness to consider a meeting of the Vienna Group on the supply of fuel to the Tehran Research Reactor.  And just two weeks ago, Lady Ashton proposed that the six meet with Iran here in Vienna in mid-November.

Iran has yet to reply to that invitation.

So that’s where we are with Iran.  As President Obama said, the door remains open to engagement.  We continue to apply our two-pronged approach to Tehran: engagement and pressure.  Iran can prove that its intentions are peaceful.  It can meet its Security Council, IAEA, and NPT obligations.  It can reassure the world that it does not pose a nuclear threat to its region, and it can join us in eliminating the threats posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation around the world.


I’ve spoken too long and must yield to your questions and your comments … always much more interesting than hearing me drone on.   But, in closing, let me step back a moment and make a broader point about the United States and the United Nations.

We have often had stormy relationship with the UN.  That is because we founded it, we fund it and we host its headquarters.  We are its major shareholder in a sense and we have high hopes for it.  Our traditional support for the UN will continue and, in fact it is strengthening.
I am proud to work for a President who believes in multilateralism.  In fact, he has staked his foreign policy on it.  But a more positive American approach to multilateralism is not enough.  From Climate Change to development to nuclear nonproliferation, we need the help of our friends.

And so I leave you with the words of President Obama:

“This is what we have already done.  But this is just a beginning.  Some of our actions have yielded progress.  Some have laid the groundwork for progress in the future.  But make no mistake:  This cannot solely be America’s endeavor.  Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.  We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world.  And now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

Thank you very much.

And with that I’ll take your questions.

Pictures from the event.