What happened in 2 years.
Was in your opinion any positive progress made in nuclear nonproliferation from Washington nuclear summit in 2010 or not, and why?
Andrew Futter, Lecturer in International Politics, Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Leicester
As regards the 2010 summit, the greatest achievement was probably getting nuclear terrorism accepted as a global ‘problem’ that everyone had a vested interest in addressing – while people were aware of the danger before (and certainly after 9-11) – this conference brought the issue to truly international attention. This in itself was arguably an important achievement, and one which Obama should take credit for.
Progress since this time has been slow; key measures to prevent nuclear terrorism such as a Fissile Material Cut Off Treat (FMCT) appeared to have stalled internationally (Chinese concerns are key to this), while Obama has so far not been able to push ahead with ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the US – he might try to push for this in a second presidential term but it remains contentious domestically. The other big issues are Iran and Israel (neither of which attended the 2010 summit); if Iran does develop a nuclear bomb this will fundamentally undermine the non-proliferation regime (not to mention the concern about its links with Hezbollah); and along with Israeli policy towards its own nuclear weapons, this continues to weaken the non-proliferation treaty and other non-proliferation mechanisms more broadly. In this sense, Iran and Israel are as important to the viability of the future of combating nuclear terrorism as Obama and other western leaders.
The fact that this week’s summit is in South Korea suggests that the DPRK’s nuclear programme will dominate proceedings. Some progress appears to have been made in previous weeks but this could be seriously upset by the proposed rocket launch by Pyongyang next month. The DPRK has a history of acting in this way, and may be seen as yet another stalling of the 6 party talks.
One final point – the more states that acquire nuclear weapons, particularly if these states do not have advanced nuclear security controls (Iran, North Korea…) or keep their weapons dispersed due to fear of attack (Pakistan) the more likely the chance that these weapons might be stolen or acquired by terrorists. In this sense, there are two levels to the nuclear terrorism issue; diplomatic international non-proliferation, and domestic security once these weapons are acquired.
Matthew Bunn, Associate Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
There has been a wide range of progress — countries eliminating all the weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil (most recently Mexico and Ukraine), countries inviting IAEA-led reviews of their security arrangements, countries installing upgrading nuclear security systems or strengthening their nuclear security rules. But there is still a very long way to go — there are still no global standards that specify how secure nuclear weapons or the materials needed to make them should be, no verification or transparency to build confidence that states are putting effective nuclear security measures in place, and, after the nuclear security summits come to an end, no global forum for discussing how to continually improve nuclear security in the face of an evolving threat.
For an account of how countries are doing in fulfilling the commitments they announced at the last summit (which concludes that about 80% of them have been fulfilled), see www.armscontrol.org.
Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation
Since the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, we have made important progress towards President Obama’s goal to “to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world.” However, much remains to be done.
Many nations have taken vital steps toward improving nuclear materials security over the past two years. About 80% of the national commitments made at the 2010 summit have been fulfilled, according to analysis by the Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security. Important achievements include: Mexico, Chile, and Ukraine eliminated their stockpiles of weapons-grade uranium; Russia halted plutonium production, and the US and Russia signed a protocol for disposing of 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium.
Despite this progress, nuclear threats persist. Nuclear terrorism is one of the most serious threats we face today. The IAEA has documented 20 cases of theft or loss of fissile material. Proliferation on a larger scale is also troubling. While U.S. and Israeli intelligence agree that Iran has not yet decided to build a bomb, Iran continues to take steps towards a nuclear weapons capability, a development that would have serious implications for proliferation throughout the region.
Over the past two years we have taken some important steps to nuclear security worldwide. The U.S. has been a leader in these efforts, and we must continue to lead, taking practical steps like ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and fully funding vital nonproliferation programs. The 2010 summit was a success in many ways, but we must not grow complacent; we must continue to build on that success in 2012 and beyond.