Progress made on lowering nuclear threat?

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Monday, April 12, 2010

WASHINGTON—Many eyes are on the capital this week as President Obama has convened his Nuclear Security Summit, gathering representatives from 47 countries to talk about stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing vulnerable nuclear materials. The White House is already hailing progress, citing the New START Treaty signed on April 8 with Russia, where both countries agreed to reduce nuclear weapon levels to a point 30 percent below the levels in a 2002 treaty, along with an agreement from Chinese president Hu Jintao to work with the United States on possible sanctions against Iran, and an agreement from Ukraine to give up all nuclear-weapon-making materials.

However, President Obama kicked off his address to the assembled country representatives this morning by saying, “the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up.” Why?

The White House believes that international terrorists have better access to nuclear materials than ever before, and much of the purpose of the summit is establish working relationships that will stop the international trafficking of nuclear materials.

“Obviously no one nation is capable of taking the actions necessary to secure vulnerable nuclear materials that are in many different countries and in many different regions of the world,” said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, in a briefing for the press before the Summit. “Similarly, no one nation is capable of pursuing the kind of nuclear security measures that can prevent the transit, illicit transit, of those types of materials.”

The White House is calling this gathering the single-largest gathering of world leaders to address a single topic in more than 20 years.

President Obama also met before the Summit started with King Abdullah of Jordan, Prime Minister Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia, and President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia.

In an address by Vice President Biden before a lunch meeting with assembled foreign leaders yesterday, the world was told “that the United States is committed to reducing the number of nuclear weapons in our arsenal and reducing their role in our defense ... And the President of the United States has committed our country to seek peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. We believe that is ultimately an achievable goal, and that is our goal.”

Biden acknowledged, however, that the United States has more work to do than most other countries when it comes to eliminating the nuclear threat. “We know that some of the countries here and elsewhere believe that we have not been moving fast enough or that we can do more,” Biden said. “Well, there is room to disagree on the exact approach of reducing nuclear weapons, but make no mistake about it this administration is intent on reducing and continuing to reduce our nuclear weapons. The one thing we can all agree on, I hope, is that adding more nuclear weapons or more nuclear-weapon states is the exact wrong approach at this moment in the world’s history, one that endangers the entire community of nations were we allow it to happen.”