Interview with Her Excellency Christina Rocca, Ambassador of the United States at the Conference on Disarmament

Christina RoccaQ : Mrs. Ambassador what is your background ?
Throughout my career I have been very fortunate to have had both very challenging and interesting jobs. I am especially privileged now to represent the United States at the Conference on Disarmament.
President Bush nominated me for this post in May 2006 and the Senate confirmed me on August 3. I immediately came to Geneva with the clear goal of encouraging the conference on Disarmament to get back to work and of using the influence of the United States to make the world a safer place. This has been challenging, but my inherent optimism and conviction that the United States has been and continues to be a leader in the fight for peace and security have made my job easier.
Before coming to Geneva, I served as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs from 2001 to 2006, an especially challenging and interesting job. Prior to joining the Department of State, I served as Foreign Affairs Advisor to Senator Sam Brownback, an outstanding representative from the State of Kansas, where I focused on issues relating to South Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. From 1982 to 1997 I worked at the Central Intelligence Agency ; that was also a fascinating job and I am proud to say I worked with some of the best people around.
I am a native of Washington, D.C., and earned my B.A. degree in History from King’s College, London. As for my family, I am married with two children at university.
Q : You are Ambassador of a quite masculine field – the arms and arms control- what are so interesting about this field ?
I have always been interested in this field and find it challenging and rewarding. Arms control, international security and disarmament bear directly on the safety and lives of everyone in this world, and if I can be a part of that, if I can represent my country while making this world a safer and better place, then I am proud to do that.
I wouldn’t characterize this field as either masculine or feminine. I know many good men and women working in this field, starting from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who started her career with considerable study of US-Soviet arms control issues. The important thing is to work hard and be prepared.
As for how I got here, when I was young I simply pursued the academic and professional interests that were challenging and interesting to me. My family and friends have always been supportive, and the career paths I have chosen always presented challenges and opportunities. I do not think any career choice can or should be defined by gender.
Q : Your country, the United States, has one Ambassador to this Conference and this really gives an indication of how important the issue is for your country. What are the main concerns for US in this field ?
You are absolutely correct. President Bush has always made international security one of his top priorities, and arms control and non- proliferation are fundamental to that effort. I feel privileged to represent that United States at the world’s single forum that negotiates multilateral arms controls treaties. The United States firmly believes that the Conference on Disarma-ment is important because it is the sole international body for the negotiation of multilateral arms control treaties, it operates by consensus, and it has a vital role to play in advancing the cause of arms control and non- proliferation.
There are critically important issues directly relating to disarmament and nonproliferation at the CD. The one the US thinks holds the most likelihood to negotiate (this is after all a negotiating forum) is the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).
Other important topics are discussed as well disarmament is one of them. The US has made enormous strides in this area. President Bush has taken unprecedented steps not only to reduce our nuclear arsenal, but also to work with other countries, especially Russia, to help them reduce theirs. The President recently announced that the United States has not only reached its ambitious goal of reducing our nuclear arsenal by 50 per cent, but we did it several years ahead of schedule. Moreover, the President announced that we will not stop there and will move further by reducing our nuclear arsenal by another 15 per cent by 2012.
As for helping other countries, let me give you one small example. The United States has given billions of dollars in assistance to Russia not only to help it dismantle its nuclear weapons safely, but also to provide meaningful employment to thousands of employees in its nuclear complex.
In other areas, the United States is a leader in destroying land mines and excess small arms and light weapons and is working to achieve consensus on multilateral agreements to restrict weapons that may cause unnecessary suffering or have indiscriminate effects. We have the world’s first and most stringent and transparent laws governing the trade in arms and ammunition and are prepared to help interested countries implement similar effective laws, the single most important way to keep arms out of the hands of terrorists.
These are just a few of the many ways the United States is a leader in the field of arms control and disarmament, and why I am so proud to tell our story.
Q : The Conference of Disarmament has been qualified as being « an unsuccessful » conference. Do you agree in this perception ?
The Conference on Disarmament and its predecessors have a proud record of achievement, including having negotiated the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
It has proven that it can work. For too long now however, it has been stymied by linkages between issues. This is a formula for stalemate. For the first time in a long time the Conference seems to be realizing this. We have seen serious efforts over the past two year to get the Conference back to work. We believe it is imperative to maintain that momentum this year. I look forward to an active and busy agenda for the Conference on Disarmament in 2008.
Q : You will soon be the President of Conference of Disarmament, what would you like to achieve during your « mandate » ?
Whether under our Presidency or the Presidency of another delegation, the United States has and will continue to seek a mandate for the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. That has been the top agenda item for the Conference for a number of years, and continues to enjoy the support of almost all members. The role of the Conference is to negotiate multilateral arms control treaties, and it is my hope, and the objective of the United States, to seek consensus to negotiate such a treaty as soon as possible. If that happens under our Presidency, that would be fine, but if it happens earlier, that would be even better. Ultimately, when we are President this summer, we will do everything we can do to make the Conference as substantive and productive as possible, and keep it relevant. We will support all the other Presidents in their efforts to achieve the same objective.
Q : Finally if you had a wish what would that be ?
I am not a person who puts a lot of stake in wishing. I would rather work hard to accomplish an objective. As the U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarma-ment, I can only say again that my delegation will do everything it can to make it as successful as possible this year. Our goal is to start negotiations on a multilateral treaty to ban the production of fissile material (the material needed to produce nuclear weapons), and we are prepared to enter such negotiations without any pre-conditions. That is the single most important and logical step the Conference on Disarma-ment can take to advance the cause of non- proliferation and international security. Let’s get to work !