A world without nuclear weapons
IN a 2009 speech in Prague, Obama identified nuclear weapons as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security,” owing to their potential to fall into the hands of terrorists or other rogue elements, and committed to reducing their role in America’s national security strategy. In his moving Hiroshima address, Obama again emphasized the need to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. He described the “moral revolution” that must accompany technological progress, with societies resisting the “logic of fear” that compels them to cling to their nuclear arsenals.
But, though both speeches expressed similar ideas, they were delivered against very different policy backdrops. Indeed, the Obama administration’s nuclear policy has changed substantially since 2009, when containing nuclear proliferation was among its central foreign-policy concerns.
In 2010, Obama brought world leaders together for the first-ever Nuclear Security Summit, which focused on keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists — a focus that has since proved to be justified. Though the initial aim of freezing stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium was not achieved, the four summits held since then have brought about a reduction in other sources of radioactive material and safety measures have been improved.
The 2010 summit came just days after another apparent victory for nonproliferation: Obama and then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which committed them to halve their stores of strategic nuclear missile launchers. Just a year earlier, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced a “reset” in bilateral relations. Since then, however, the relationship has deteriorated, taking with it hope for further cooperation.
In fact, Obama’s entire non-proliferation agenda has lost considerable momentum. Russia chose not to attend the latest Nuclear Security Summit, held in Washington earlier this year. And not only has the US not proposed any new international non-proliferation initiatives; at a 2015 conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it moved to avoid a conference on a nuclear weapons ban for the Middle East, in order to avoid increasing tensions with Israel.
Given that there can be no secu- rity in East Asia — especially for South Korea and Japan — without a nuclear deal, strong international action is crucial. Specifically, the international community must escalate its response to North Korea’s increasingly unruly behavior, by compelling the country’s leaders to engage in negotiations with world powers regarding its nuclear program. For talks to be successful, however, China and the US — which have plenty of disagreements of their own — must work together, and the other members of the UN Security Council must facilitate such cooperation.
Obama’s address in Hiroshima carried huge symbolic significance. But, with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons still in the world, symbolism is not enough. It is time to take action to advance non-proliferation. — Courtesy Arab News