The End of Nuclear Weapons
"Now, even as we prosecute two wars, we're also confronting perhaps the greatest danger to the American people—the threat of nuclear weapons. I've embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons and seeks a world without them.
To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C. behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists."
President Barack Obama
State of the Union
January 27, 2010
In an address dominated by domestic and economic issues, President Barack Obama made a forceful case for a step-by-step approach to preventing nuclear terrorism, preventing new states from getting nuclear weapons, and for dramatically reducing the stockpiles of 23,000 weapons in the world today.
Obama called nuclear weapons “the greatest danger to the American people today.” He is not alone. A growing bipartisan consensus is building among military leaders, national security experts, and others for a comprehensive plan.
"Over the long term, we need to be heading towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. And over the short term we need to be taking steps to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons ... could be used,” says former Secretary of Defense William Perry. “This is such an important problem in my mind, that it dwarfs all other considerations, and I have, myself, decided to devote the balance of my career to working to achieve that goal.”
Last week in The Wall Street Journal, Perry was joined by former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger and former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn, in their third joint op-ed pledging their support for “a global effort to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, to prevent their spread into potentially dangerous hands, and ultimately to end them as a threat to the world.”
This begins, as Obama noted, with Senate approval of a new treaty to reduce the U.S. and Russian arsenals, which together account for 96 percent of global totals. Obama expects to conclude such a treaty with the Russians in the next few weeks.
It also means getting the cooperation of key nations to secure and eliminate nuclear weapon materials before terrorists can steal or buy them. The president will convene a Global Nuclear Security Summit in April in Washington, where, he said, “we will bring forty-four nations together behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.”
This global cooperation can and has isolated North Korea and Iran, and it has increased the pressure on them to end their nuclear programs. Obama’s approach has also allowed a strong internal opposition to emerge inside Iran, increasing the chances of genuine regime change after years of Iran’s lockstep march towards nuclear weapons capability.
Obama said, “I have embraced the vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan through a strategy that reverses the spread of these weapons, and seeks a world without them.” His task now is to mobilize the majority support for this 21st Century security strategy to overcome those still clinging to nuclear weapons and outmoded Cold War theories. It may be the most important fight he has this year.