Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Nuclear Free World?: By Kissinger et al

An impressive article appeared on January 4. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Schultz, Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, and Former Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee Sam Nunn contributed an essay, entitled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons” to the Wall Street Journal. Authors insist that the United States take leadership to eliminate nuclear weapons from allover the world.

It may sound odd that leading policymakers tell such an airy fairly vision. Why do they propose this? Let me review the article.

Authors explain changes in security environment from the Cold War era to present. During the Cold War, nuclear weapons were necessary to maintain mutually assured destruction (MAD) between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, authors point out that reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective. Rogue states like North Korea and Iran pose serious challenges to global security. More dangerously, non-state terrorist groups can acquire nuclear weapons, which is beyond the concept of deterrence strategy. New nuclear actors do not have reliable safeguards to prevent accidental firing of nuclear weapons, which poses further threat to the global community.

Thanks to arms control efforts by the United States and the Soviet Union, no nuclear weapons were used by intention or by accident. Today, the world stands at crossroads, whether we will continue to be fortunate to avoid nuclear catastrophes as we were during the Cold War era.

Authors point out that US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev mentioned their hope for total elimination of nuclear weapons at the meeting in Reykjavik in 1987. It was right at the end of the Cold War. It is remarkable that leaders of largest nuclear powers envisioned such a bold world 20 years ago.

In order to achieve this long cherished goal in this critically dangerous age, authors recommend the following processes.

• Changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time and thereby reduce the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon.

• Continuing to reduce substantially the size of nuclear forces in all states that possess them.

• Eliminating short-range nuclear weapons designed to be forward-deployed.

• Initiating a bipartisan process with the Senate, including understandings to increase confidence and provide for periodic review, to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, taking advantage of recent technical advances, and working to secure ratification by other key states.

• Providing the highest possible standards of security for all stocks of weapons, weapons-usable plutonium, and highly enriched uranium everywhere in the world.

• Getting control of the uranium enrichment process, combined with the guarantee that uranium for nuclear power reactors could be obtained at a reasonable price, first from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and then from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or other controlled international reserves. It will also be necessary to deal with proliferation issues presented by spent fuel from reactors producing electricity.

• Halting the production of fissile material for weapons globally; phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium from research facilities around the world and rendering the materials safe.

• Redoubling our efforts to resolve regional confrontations and conflicts that give rise to new nuclear powers.

Finally, authors advocate that a brave initiative for practical measures toward achieving a nuclear free world is consistent with America’s moral heritage. It is noteworthy that this is a bipartisan policy recommendation. As mentioned in the article, global security is in a critical stage now. Even a diehard realist like Henry Kissinger advocates an idealist vision of nuclear free world.

Right or wrong, the Bush administration has taken a step toward the future on one hand, which is prevailing democracy in the Middle East to prevent terrorism. Making a nuclear free world is another important agenda for America and the world. Will President Bush take a vital step toward this goal before his term completes?