When delegates arrive in New York on Monday to begin the month-long Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, all eyes will turn to the United Nations. With Iran’s continued refusal to halt its production of enriched uranium and answer questions about its nuclear program, North Korea’s rejection of the NPT and subsequent nuclear tests, and a host of other ailments, challenges to the nonproliferation regime abound. But the Review Conference is just one of many opportunities to strengthen the international nonproliferation regime, not an end unto itself.
A report from this weekend's New York Times about a leaked classified Iran memo written in January by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates provided an interesting view into the workings of the Obama administration's Iran policy. What it did not do was contradict the methodical, strategic approach that the Administration has been pursuing towards that country. As Secretary Gates made clear yesterday in response to the leak, the Administration has been taking consistent steps to prepare for the full-range of possibilities for dealing with Iran, including an engagement policy that has brought more clarity and international focus to the issue. The combination of an engagement policy, rooted in multilateralism, with the potential for increased pressure on Iran has been the consistent approach of the Administration since it took office. This record stands in stark contrast to the undisciplined Iran policy of the previous Bush administration.
The Obama administration is taking unprecedented action to protect America and its allies from the dual threats of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The United States is the only country capable of forging international consensus for taking on these threats, and by reasserting American leadership on these critical issues, the Administration has demonstrated that it can mobilize global actors to confront global threats. The Administration's comprehensive actions have broad support from across the political spectrum, have generated tangible positive outcomes, and have set the stage for future progress on securing our country from the prospect of nuclear terrorism.
Tomorrow in Prague, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev will sign the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which will be the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades. This will take place almost one year to the day from when President Obama unveiled his historic vision for reducing the threat of nuclear weapons in the 21st Century. This historic agreement stands on its own as a significant arms control achievement, the result of many months of effective diplomacy carried out both by the President and his team to advance our country's security. Following the tradition of leaders on arms control, such as Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, President Obama has demonstrated that his Administration will protect the United States by reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons. The signing of tomorrow's treaty represents a major step in that direction.
The Obama administration announced today the future of U.S. nuclear weapons policy by releasing its much anticipated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This is only the third such document of its kind, and unlike its predecessors, focuses on preventing both nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation-the most serious nuclear threats of the day. Importantly, by clarifying the role of nuclear weapons in national security policy, this statement sends a clear signal to the international community that the U.S. is committed to maintaining international security by strengthening the global nonproliferation regime.