By ANDREW RIEDY
Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, Washington
St. Mary Central Catholic High School graduate
On April 5, President Barack Obama made a ground-breaking foreign policy speech in Prague, Czech Republic, articulating an ambitious nuclear non-proliferation agenda. In his speech he outlined specific steps the United States would take to address the nuclear threat head-on, and the White House has wasted no time in implementing them. Recently, President Obama designated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lead the U.S. delegation to the conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Second, the President is taking the initiative to preside over a special session of the United Nations Security Council that will focus on non-proliferation and disarmament issues. Third, the White House has set a March 2010 time frame for a global nuclear security summit to take place in Washington.
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Secretary Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Test Ban Treaty at the UN Thursday and Friday. This marked a reversal in policy from the previous administration, which failed to send a delegation to the last four meetings of the conference, represents a significant move toward the objectives laid out in his April 5 Prague address. Also strongly representative of the president's resolve in seeing swift ratification of the Test Ban Treaty is a draft UN Security Council Resolution recently penned by the White House. In it the United States recognizes the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and urges all states to refrain from nuclear testing and to ratify the Test Ban Treaty.
Thursday and Friday also marked the first time a U.S. president has presided over a special session of the Security Council. The United States holds the Security Council's rotating presidency and therefore has set an agenda of discussions concerning disarmament and non-proliferation issues. The president was joined by 14 other heads of state who represent their nations in the Security Council. The U.S. Ambassador to the UN acknowledged "the conference will be focused on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly and will not focus on specific countries," presumably to avoid some of the bickering that prevented similar efforts in the past from reaching substantive agreements.
The next step the president will take to reduce the likelihood of would-be terrorists acquiring nuclear materials or a weapon is the hosting of a global nuclear security summit in Washington in March. First announced in his April 5 Prague speech, then solidified at the G8 summit in June, the Global Nuclear Security summit will work toward raising the global standard for effective nuclear security. The president noted the world should not wait for a terrorist attack to improve its collective nuclear security culture.
The aforementioned steps the White House is taking to address the world's gravest threat are laudable. The president has chosen not to sit idly by, instead opting to take an aggressive stance on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and demanding that nations adhere to their international treaty obligations. An endeavor of this magnitude will take the leadership of the United States in concert with the other nuclear powers to effectively accomplish.
The White House has shown it is willing to lead by example and propose concrete initiatives that will move the world closer to ridding itself of nuclear weapons.
Andrew Riedy is a graduate student at the George Washington University in Washington D.C., an Ohio State alumnus, and an alumnus of St. Mary's Central Catholic High School in Sandusky, Ohio. He studies nuclear non-proliferation issues and works at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington D.C.