Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing Called by Russia on Threats to International Peace and Security

Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
September 12, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for your latest briefing on this issue today. Your leadership and the continuing efforts of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the global effort to counter weapons diversion remain essential.

Madam President, this is the fifth meeting Russia has requested on this subject in six months. This latest request is yet a further signal – as though we needed it – of the depth of Russia’s cynicism and willingness to waste the Security Council’s time, attention, and resources. Russian officials seem to continue to think they can distract us from the Kremlin’s actions, undermining international peace and security – including through Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric through its ongoing efforts to unlawfully procure arms from the DPRK, in violation of this very Council’s resolutions; through procuring armed drones from Iran used to attack Ukrainian civilian infrastructure; and through endangering cargo vessels in the Black Sea.

But Russia should disabuse itself of the illusion we will be distracted with the dark reality we face. We won’t be. We last met on this topic not even four weeks ago. Since then, Russia’s daily rocket and drone attacks continue to hit Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and kill innocent people. Just recently, on September 6th, a Russian missile tore through the city of Kostiantynivka, killing 17 people. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is the true and undeniable cause aggravating the crisis and undermining the efforts to find a peaceful solution.

After the United States exposed the November 2022 transfer of infantry rockets and missiles from the DPRK to Russia’s Wagner Group, we have warned that Russia is actively seeking to acquire munitions, including through leader-level discussions from the DPRK. Security Council resolutions prohibit all UN Member States from procuring arms or related materiel from the DPRK. By continuing this relationship, Russia would receive multiple significant quantities and multiple types of munitions for the Russia military to use against Ukraine. These potential deals could also include the provision of raw materials that would assist Russia’s defense industrial base.

In tandem, any revenue the DPRK receives from such transfers could be channeled by Pyongyang to further develop its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

We will continue to identify, expose, and counter Russia’s attempts to acquire military equipment from the DPRK – or any other state that is prepared to support Russia’s war against Ukraine. We urge the DPRK to cease its efforts to transfer arms to Russia. We also urge all Member States to remind Russia of its Security Council obligations – remind Russia that any transfer of arms between the two countries would violate arms embargo on the DPRK that Russia itself has voted to adopt.

Unfortunately, as we know, this is not the only time Russia has violated a Security Council resolution to procure arms. There is extensive documentation of Russia receiving hundreds of unmanned arial vehicles from Iran for use against Ukraine. Including recently downgraded information provided by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and shared with this Council. Such transfers are violations of Security Council Resolution 2231, and we know these weapons have been used in attacks of Ukraine civilian infrastructure.

The United States, along with other Member States, have called on the Secretary-General to authorize an investigation into these serious violations of Resolution 2231. We are still waiting for a substantive response to this request.

Moreover, Russia has refused to allow the examination of evidence of Iranian transfers of these unmanned arial vehicles, and has instead, worked to actively prevent an investigation by the Secretariat. These acts only further demonstrate Russia’s continued attempts to undermine the credibility of this Council.

The United States will continue to demonstrate its enduring commitment to supporting Ukraine’s self-defense, including through of provision of arms and equipment that enable Ukraine to defend its territory and protect its people from Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression.

And let me be clear: the support for Ukraine is being carried out responsibly – by helping Ukraine and neighboring states account for and safeguard arms and ammunition during transfer, in storage, and when deployed, strengthening border management and security in Ukraine and neighboring states, and building a capacity of relevant government agencies to deter, to detect, and predict illicit trafficking of certain weapons. We are taking concrete steps to address threats posed by the potential diversion of weapons.

In fact, as we work closely with Ukraine and other partners to ensure our military assistance is properly safeguarded and used appropriately by Ukraine in its self-defense, Russia remains at this stage the only know vector of diversion of advanced conventional weapons. If Russia were concerned about reducing conflict and mitigating illicit weapons diversions, it would choose to end the war it started, and withdraw its forces rather than escalate nuclear rhetoric, barrages of missiles, human rights abuses and war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violation of various UN Security Council resolutions and the UN Charter.

We once again renew our calls for Russia to end its war, and to do so immediately. Madam President, just a few points on cluster munitions. With regards to cluster munitions: Let me be clear, when used appropriately against military targets, cluster munitions are an effective battleground tool for the defeat of dismounting infantry, including the entrenched positions and against lightly armored mobile forces, which reflects the situation on the ground in Ukraine. The cluster munitions the United States are providing Ukraine are tested and designed to maximize effect, limit rates of failure.

In contrast, since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine, Russia has employed high-failure rate cluster munitions across the country. Thank you, Madam President.