Grantees Instrumental in Bringing START, NPT and Global Nuclear Security Summit to fruition

Grantees in this story

New York, New York, April 12, 2010 — In recent weeks, there has been considerable — and historic — activity around nuclear weapons. In Prague, on April 8, President Barack Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia signed a new Strategic Arms Control Treaty (START) effectively reducing the number of strategic nuclear warheads in the two countries’ arsenals to levels not seen since the first decade of the nuclear age.

Also last week, the Obama Administration unveiled the Nuclear Posture Review, a new policy, which lays out the circumstances under which the U.S. might use nuclear weapons. In a break with the past, these new guidelines declare the U.S. will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any country that's in conformity with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

And this week, the 47-nation Global Nuclear Security Summit, which will focus on safeguarding against nuclear terrorism by bolstering international cooperation and improving security for nuclear materials worldwide, will be convened in Washington D.C. 

Building on almost three decades of work on nuclear issues, current and past Carnegie Corporation grantees have played important roles behind the scenes and more publicly in bringing START, the NPT and Summit to fruition.  The foundation’s grantees continue to contribute important analyses and commentary about the nature and implications of these developments, and to reach out to the policy community, the media and the public. 

  • The “New START” signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev on April 7th in Prague calls for Russia and the United States to reduce their arsenals of nuclear weapons by roughly a third and, importantly, includes verification and transparency provisions that are critical to this and future accords. For President Obama, the treaty breathes new life into efforts to press the “reset button” with Russia and marks a first step on the road to a world free of nuclear weapons, which the President called for a year ago in a Prague speech. With the Review Conference for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) only weeks away, the treaty may also assist global efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons by showing other nations that the two countries with 95% of these weapons are willing to take concrete steps to reduce their arsenals. To take effect, the treaty must be ratified by the U.S. Senate and Russian Duma. While the ratification processes in both legislatures are likely to be contentious, most observers believe the treaties will win approval. 
  • The 49-page, congressionally-mandated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) “establishes U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture for the next five to ten years.”  It marks only the third time that U.S. administration has submitted such a review. Representing neither a “sharp shift” nor a “reaffirmation of the status quo” as reported by some media sources, the NPR is distinguished from its George W. Bush-era predecessor by the narrowing of the circumstances under which the United States would consider using nuclear weapons.  Specifically, it declares “The fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners." While rejecting an across-the board prohibition on American “first-use” of a nuclear weapon, it clarifies that the United States will not launch a nuclear attack on any country that has signed and is in compliance with the NPT. Pointedly, Iran and North Korea are considered “outliers” (the new administration term replacing “rogue states”) that are not subject to this formal prohibition. The NPR also declares that the United States will not build any new nuclear warheads, but will maintain the safety, security and reliability of its existing arsenal, while also making missile defense a centerpiece of the U.S. deterrent umbrella. 
  • As a follow-up to his pledge “to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years,” President Obama invited more than 40 heads of state, including Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, to an international security summit in Washington D.C. on April 12-13. The summit focuses on safeguarding against nuclear terrorism by bolstering international cooperation and improving security for nuclear materials worldwide. It will provide an opportunity for world leaders to discuss practical ways to identify and disrupt illicit trade in nuclear materials. The planned outcome of the summit is a communiqué signed by all the countries represented pledging efforts to attain the highest levels of nuclear security as well as the development and expansion of peaceful nuclear energy worldwide.

Taken together, the three developments mark an important step in reducing the threats posed by nuclear weapons worldwide — a major goal of Carnegie Corporation’s International Peace and Security program.  

More detailed analyses and commentary on recent nuclear developments can be found at Corporation grantee websites, including:

Learn more about Carnegie Corporation's program on International Peace and Security.