Remarks by Ambassador Tefft at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) – Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS) Dialogue on the Future of U

Thank you for the kind introduction and for having me here today.

When you have worked on U.S.-Russian relations as long as I have, you can appreciate the areas where we still cooperate despite the ups and downs in our relationship.  Cooperation on nuclear issues is one of these areas.  Our partnership is as vast as the field itself – we work together in nuclear science, energy, security, safety, and the impact on the environment.

And this scientific cooperation dates back to the earliest days of the United States.  In fact, the first American member of the Russian Academy of Sciences was Benjamin Franklin, one of our founding fathers.  He invited Ekaterina Dashkova – the first president of the Russian Academy of Sciences – to become a member of the American Philosophical Society.  Even in our earliest days, Americans and Russians knew that we had a shared interest in working together in the sciences.

And consider the results of our scientific cooperation:

  • The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project – the handshake in space – began 40 years of cooperation in space that continues until today.  As we speak, Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts are living together and advancing important science and space exploration objectives aboard the International Space Station.  Russian Academy of Science instruments are currently operating on NASA spacecraft orbiting the Moon and Mars and even on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.
  • Our successful diplomatic efforts to reach the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ensured that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  This cooperation reminded us once again that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the world’s greatest challenges.
  • The United States and Russia broadened cooperative science and technology programs with our Science and Technology Agreement in 1993.  This Agreement has enabled Russian and American scientists to work together in a variety of areas of growing global importance, from biodefense to Arctic research.
  • And, of course, together we built the entire foundation of modern arms control through our many treaties and agreements over the decades.  And a namesake of one of the most important of these treaties – Senator Sam Nunn is with us here today.  The United States and Russia’s cooperative partnership on nuclear security, particularly under the auspices of the Nunn-Lugar program – known here as the Cooperative Threat Reduction program – is one of the greatest threat reduction achievements in modern history.  What we have learned together over the last several decades remains relevant to addressing today’s proliferation threats and challenges.  I commend all of the individuals in this room who have participated in these historic efforts.  And I call on our Russian colleagues to commit to building on our cooperative efforts in this area, as we both have much more work to do to ensure the highest level of security for our nuclear materials.

These are just a few examples of our long history of technical cooperation.  I take inspiration from this history as we gather here today to discuss ideas for future collaboration in science and technology, particularly on nuclear issues.

Our years of working together on arms control and nuclear nonproliferation have shown that, when Russia and the United States have strong mutual interests, we can overcome our differences and successfully work together.  Our cooperation is based not just on treaties and promises, but on proven systems of verification and a level of trust and cooperation developed over a half a century.

On the vital issues of arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, the United States and Russia – as the world’s leading nuclear powers – have the moral obligation to lead.  If Russia and America are on the same side, we can accomplish almost anything.  If we are divided, very little will get done.  It is time to roll up our sleeves, take advantage of this moment, and get to work.

I wish the conference participants success in identifying practical proposals for future cooperation.  As you begin your discussions, you continue a rich tradition of technical and scientific collaboration for the greater good.  It is through such cooperative efforts that I hope we will build trust and foster closer collaboration between our two scientific communities and our peoples.