Nuclear Security Summit: A Step in the Right Direction?

On April 12th and 13th, 2010, President Barack Obama took a step away from his domestic agenda to focus on what he terms one of the greatest threats to international security: access to nuclear materials by terrorist groups. Bringing together representatives from 47 different countries, the Nuclear Security Summit, held in Washington DC, aimed to safeguard stockades of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium. Emerging from this event was an agreement among the participating countries on the urgency and severity of the threat, as well as adoption of a goal to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within the next four years.

The summit built upon the momentum initiated by a new pact between Russia and the United States the previous week. Russia and the US agreed to dispose of 68,000kg of weapons-grade plutonium. While applauding the initiative of Russia and the United States, The Guardian stresses the need to garner multinational support to rein in nuclear proliferation. The backing of other vital countries, like China, will be necessary before the grand vision of a nuclear-free world can evolve into reality.

The sustained, and supposed, push by Iran toward nuclear-weapon capability dominated discussions at the Nuclear Security Summit. A nuclear Iran would at the very least alter the landscape of power in the Middle East, impacting US interests in the region. Despite its desire to impede the Iranian push for nuclear capabilities, the Obama administration has very little tangible progress to show for its efforts. An article in the BBC states that the hesitancy of Russia and China to agree to economic sanctions against Iran arises out of both states favoring continued dialogue with Iran.

In the end, despite its lofty goals, the Nuclear Security Summit was only able to collect verbal promises, hardly the concrete accord desired by President Obama. The summit ended shrouded in uncertainty, a sentiment highlighted in an article published by The Economist, who poses the question: so what now? What now still remains to be seen.

Recommended Articles:

Advanced Article: Al-Jazeera: US Leadership in Non-proliferation< a>
Intermediate Article:
Time: Obama Makes Progress on Nuke Security, Less on Iran
Beginner Article: BBC News: World Leaders Agree to Nuclear Deal

Multimedia:

PBS NewsHour: Albright, Scowcroft Outline Nuclear Summit Goals
LinkTV: The Active Opposition: The Nuclear Lullaby
BBC News: Stark Nuclear Warning for Summit

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why does a nuclear Iran pose such a looming threat to the world and the United States in particular? What effect would sanctions, as proposed by President Obama, have upon Iran?
  2. Why are Russia and China both so reluctant to sign off on what the United States terms crippling economic sanctions against Iran?
  3. Besides Iran, what other countries are said to exacerbate the threat of nuclear attacks?
  4. What steps have already been taken by countries to ensure that they are adhering to the agreements made at the Nuclear Security Summit?
  5. How does the nuclear policy of President Obama compare with the policies of previous presidents and their administrations?

Curriculum:

  1. The New York Times Learning Network: One Step Closer to a Treaty
  2. PBS NewsHour: Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Debating the Non-Proliferation Treaty
  3. Choices: Nuclear Weapons: What Should our Policy Be?

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