Nuclear Security Summit on US capital
With some 47 countries in attendance it will be one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the US capital since the late 1940s.
This will be the third element in a nuclear season that began with this month’s unveiling of the Obama administration’s nuclear strategy, the Nuclear Posture Review.
This identified nuclear proliferation–the spread of nuclear weapons and the danger that they might fall into the hands of terrorist groups–as now the key nuclear threat to America’s security.
As the summit begins, the United States is negotiating with the four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
“The central focus of this nuclear summit is the fact that the single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said Sunday, appearing with South African President Jacob Zuma in Washington.
“This is something that could change the security landscape in this country and around the world for years to come,” Obama said. “If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications–economically, politically and from a security perspective–would be devastating. We know that organizations like al Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and would have no compunction at using them.”
Obama signed a new treaty with Russia last week to reduce the nuclear stockpiles of both nations, and his administration issued a revised U.S. nuclear arms strategy intended to reinforce the nation’s nuclear deterrent while isolating terrorists and rogue states that fail to comply with international regulations.
It all fits together as an ambitious effort to mobilize a unified global effort against nuclear proliferation, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in interviews broadcast Sunday.
“We want to get the world’s attention focused where we think it needs to be, with these continuing efforts by al Qaeda and others to get just enough nuclear material to cause terrible havoc, destruction, and loss of life somewhere in the world,” Clinton told the ABC program “This Week.”
Of particular concern are older nuclear weapons and materials that aren’t safeguarded as well as they should be, particularly in Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, Clinton said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”
It used to be considered a U.S.-Soviet issue, Clinton said, rather than the high international priority “we intend to make it in the coming week.”