Ending The Scourge Of Nuclear Weapons
One way in which Barack Obama has separated himself from a standard-issue foreign policy hawk, at least in the modern conception, is on the issue of nuclear weapons. The paleo-cons and realists have generally come to the conclusion that there is no purposeful use for nuclear weapons on this planet, and the President agrees with them. Today, he presided over a session of the UN Security Council and got a unanimous agreement from the member nations to a resolution calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Gordon Brown even vowed to reduce his country's nuclear arsenal in conjunction with this pledge. In his remarks, Obama applied his prodigious rhetorical skills to a very good end.
As I said yesterday, this very institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man's capacity to kill had to be contained. And although we averted a nuclear nightmare during the Cold War, we now face proliferation of a scope and complexity that demands new strategies and new approaches. Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city -- be it New York or Moscow; Tokyo or Beijing; London or Paris -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.
Once more, the United Nations has a pivotal role to play in preventing this crisis. The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal. It reflects the agenda I outlined in Prague, and builds on a consensus that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have the responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them.
He's asking for more than just a hand-holding kumbaya. The resolution would commit nations to a lockdown of all loose nuclear materials within four years. It would strengthen the mandate of the IAEA and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It of course follows that nations seen as out of compliance with the NPT and the IAEA would have to face sanctions, and Obama got Russia to agree to that standard with respect to Iran. But you really cannot call for an end to nuclear weapons worldwide without calling attention to those countries threatening to defy that. I am unconvinced that Iran belongs in that number, but the pressure of proposed sanctions has led to international talks and moves toward engagement.
I share the President's vision of a world without nuclear weapons. In order for that to become reality, we need to use all necessary tools to capture loose nuclear material, confer legitimacy on the process by drawing down our own stockpiles, and ensure that all proliferation stops. That includes making all parties live up to treaty obligations. This is a worthwhile goal.
"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop until all -- we must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of the Earth."
That is our task. That can be our destiny. And we will leave this meeting with a renewed determination to achieve this shared goal. Thank you.