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August 18, 2009 |  1 comment |  Print  Your Opinion  

Kenneth N. Luongo

Topic Controlling Loose Nukes

Kenneth N. Luongo: A prerequisite for the abolition of nuclear weaponry is that international leaders must effectively and comprehensively address the evolving global nuclear dangers of the 21st century. Thus, they should launch a Nuclear Security Initiative, that would include a comprehensive suite of next-generation nuclear security policies and tools.

The new realities are that non-traditional influences, including global energy demand, climate change concerns, new economic development forces and technological advances are increasingly reshaping the nuclear security environment.  Adapting nuclear proliferation prevention strategies and programs to this new environment will require significantly increasing programmatic budgets, creating a robust globalized agenda, harmonizing US and international programs, establishing new partnerships with nongovernmental partners, removing legal impediments to action and utilizing new tools to defeat new threats.  

In the short-term, the core international nuclear security programs, including the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, should be strengthened with new metrics, expanded authorities, and increased budgets. The budget ramp-up should be occurring now to support President Obama's efforts "to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years" and prevent nuclear terrorism. Also, the US agencies participating in global nuclear security activities should be assigned specific roles and responsibilities so that the agency best suited to carry out a particular task can do so as rapidly and successfully as possible. These agencies also need some unrestricted funding and the latitude to quickly reprioritize their activities based on changing conditions. Furthermore, US programs should be able to accept non-US contributions for nuclear nonproliferation activities and have the legal flexibility to address nuclear challenges in all foreign countries.  

The Global Nuclear Security Initiative also needs to incorporate new stakeholders.  For instance, a Nonproliferation Enterprise Fund could be created to allow government programs to partner with the nongovernmental and university communities to provide fresh nonproliferation analyses. Part of this Fund could also be dedicated to the development of the next generation of nuclear security and nonproliferation experts who would perform a period of government service in exchange for educational and training support.  

There is also a need to more robustly engage the private sector. For example, the nuclear energy industry could be asked to contribute a portion of the cost of each new nuclear plant built to a fund that supplements the IAEA safeguards budget or other nonproliferation activities. Establishing such a fund could yield millions in new funding  for global security enhancements, recognize explicitly the security implications of the expansion of nuclear power, and provide a reputational benefit to the nuclear industry.   

In addition to the administration's goals to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and negotiate a follow-on to START, there are a number of other internationally-focused nonproliferation and disarmament opportunities that the US could lead as part of its global nuclear security strategy.  In advance of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, the US could coordinate an official statement by the five NPT nuclear weapon states announcing that they have ended the production of fissile material for weapons purposes.  This would formalize the unofficial moratorium that is already observed and could be a first step toward a global fissile material cut off treaty. 

Another option to consider is to extend the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction for another 10 years and reconceptulize it to have global and operational focus.  For example, given the unpredictable nature of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) crises, establishing a multilateral WMD rapid reaction force under the G-8 (with provisions for the participation of non-G-8 nations just as the Global Partnership currently allows) could lay the groundwork for effective, coordinated multilateral action to quickly and effectively respond to a WMD crisis or disarmament opportunity anywhere on the globe.  

The Obama administration and other international leaders must think beyond the incremental expansion and adaptation of existing arms control and threat reduction programs as they work to develop a next-generation suite of nuclear security and nonproliferation policies. The Global Nuclear Security Initiative could serve as an effective and robust element in any nuclear weapons elimination strategy.

Kenneth N. Luongo is founder and president of Partnership for Global Security in Washington, D.C. Prior to this he served as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy for Nonproliferation Policy and as Director of the Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Greg Randolph Lawson

August 18, 2009

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First, I must clarify that I am skeptic of arms control treaties, at least at this time.

I am highly skeptical of their real utility, especially if they begin incorporating missile defense into their web of obligations (like with the ABM Treaty). While I acknowledge that a deep reduction in the US and Russian arsenals may lead some nations that would consider acquiring nuclear weapons to stand down and appreciate the "moral high ground" of the major nuclear states, I do not envision this convincing nations like North Korea, Iran, or now even Burma.

It may seem a bit tongue in cheek, but Machiavelli made clear that it is best to be both loved and feared, but better to be feared than loved. In international relations, I firmly believe this maxim holds. Reducing arsenals, especially for the United States, does not guarantee global respect. It simply limits potential flexibility with the hope that respect will follow. History should not allow man to be so sanguine about such prospects.

So while I am deeply concerned about the need for a new START treaty and retain concerns regarding the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and a possible fissile material cutoff treaty, I would agree with Mr. Luongo that the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program should be strengthened.

While I believe reducing US arsenals is not necessarily wise, I think it is extremely prudent to limit access to nuclear material that is not currently adequately secured. The threat of non-state actors securing such material and fashioning even a rudimentary device is the greatest threat associated with nuclear weapons and/or material. Clearly, it is more likely that this is the nature of the threat to materialize than a state on state nuclear conflict.

In essence I believe abolition is an absolute fool's errand that substitutes high minded sounding platitudes for hard headed confrontation with reality. However, securing materials so that only state based actors can acquire them is a worthy and necessary goal.

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