t r u t h o u t | 04.06
The 52 Minutes of Obama Magic That Changed the Nuclear Rules
Monday 06 April 2009
by: Ian Traynor | Visit article original @ The Guardian
Two presidential speeches in two days signal end of cold war strategic thinking.
In his whirlwind debut European tour of summits in Britain, France, Germany and the Czech Republic, Barack Obama has delivered two speeches, both exactly 26 minutes long.
On Friday, in
The world's estimated arsenal of 24,000 nuclear warheads - all but 1,000 in the
The president pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted. He spelled out how he would accelerate arms control agreements with
Building on the momentum of a new agreement with the Russians, Obama said he wanted to cajole the other nuclear powers into agreeing international arms cuts.
This would include
John Hutton, the defence secretary, said at the weekend "there would have to be a very significant breakthrough in international nuclear weapons negotiations" before
"It is time for testing of nuclear weapons to be banned," Obama said. He called for a resuscitation of the 1996 comprehensive test ban treaty outlawing all nuclear tests. Obama's Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton, signed the treaty, but then gave up on it after running into resistance from the Republican-controlled Senate which refused to ratify it a decade ago. George Bush did not pursue the issue.
America is the most important country that has not ratified the treaty, although other nuclear countries such as China, Israel and Pakistan, as well as
Obama said he would pursue
As well as supporting the test ban treaty, Obama pledged to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which dates from 1968 and is the cornerstone of the effort to try to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.
He specified two ways of reinforcing the NPT regime - banning the production of fissile material used for nuclear warheads and establishing an "international fuel bank" which would supply and keep tabs on low-enriched uranium for peaceful nuclear purposes in electricity generation for countries that need it.
This is aimed at keeping countries, such as
Low-enriched uranium is used in power plants. High-enriched uranium is used for warheads. The material can be diverted for weapons use and once you have mastered the fuel cycle for power generation, it is relatively easy to produce bomb-grade material.
Obama also insisted on greater resources and authority for international inspections - and "real and immediate consequences" for countries that violate the treaty.
Over the past 15 years there have been various efforts, mainly by the
Obama said he wanted to re-energise this campaign to get all "vulnerable" nuclear materials in secure storage within four years.
He also said he would convene a world summit on nuclear security in the
But the spread of nuclear knowhow and technology had to be stopped, he said, since it would become increasingly easy to "buy, build or steal" a nuclear bomb. The risk of terrorists being able to obtain a nuclear device was "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security."
Obama also promised to rewrite American military and national security strategy to downgrade the centrality of nuclear weapons, reversing a tendency among some senior former military officials to argue in favour of an increased reliance on nuclear weapons and a commitment to embrace preemptive nuclear strikes as an option.
The president conceded the nuclear challenge was daunting, would be a long haul, and could fail. "This goal will not be reached quickly - perhaps not in my lifetime. It would take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change." But he said it was time for a new, more robust international regime. "Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something."
Remarks by President Obama in
Sunday 05 April 2009
President Obama: Thank you so much. Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you to the people of
To Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, to all the dignitaries who are here, thank you for your extraordinary hospitality. And to the people of the
I've learned over many years to appreciate the good company and the good humor of the Czech people in my hometown of
For over a thousand years,
When I was born, the world was divided, and our nations were faced with very different circumstances. Few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the
We are here today because enough people ignored the voices who told them that the world could not change.
We're here today because of the courage of those who stood up and took risks to say that freedom is a right for all people, no matter what side of a wall they live on, and no matter what they look like.
We are here today because of the Prague Spring - because the simple and principled pursuit of liberty and opportunity shamed those who relied on the power of tanks and arms to put down the will of a people.
We are here today because 20 years ago, the people of this city took to the streets to claim the promise of a new day, and the fundamental human rights that had been denied them for far too long. Sametová Revoluce - (applause) - the Velvet Revolution taught us many things. It showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in world events, and that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts. (Applause.) And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.
That's why I'm speaking to you in the center of a
We are here today because Americans and Czechs believed against all odds that today could be possible. (Applause.)
Now, we share this common history. But now this generation - our generation - cannot stand still. We, too, have a choice to make. As the world has become less divided, it has become more interconnected. And we've seen events move faster than our ability to control them - a global economy in crisis, a changing climate, the persistent dangers of old conflicts, new threats and the spread of catastrophic weapons.
None of these challenges can be solved quickly or easily. But all of them demand that we listen to one another and work together; that we focus on our common interests, not on occasional differences; and that we reaffirm our shared values, which are stronger than any force that could drive us apart. That is the work that we must carry on. That is the work that I have come to
To renew our prosperity, we need action coordinated across borders. That means investments to create new jobs. That means resisting the walls of protectionism that stand in the way of growth. That means a change in our financial system, with new rules to prevent abuse and future crisis. (Applause.)
And we have an obligation to our common prosperity and our common humanity to extend a hand to those emerging markets and impoverished people who are suffering the most, even though they may have had very little to do with financial crises, which is why we set aside over a trillion dollars for the International Monetary Fund earlier this week, to make sure that everybody - everybody - receives some assistance. (Applause.)
Now, to protect our planet, now is the time to change the way that we use energy. (Applause.) Together, we must confront climate change by ending the world's dependence on fossil fuels, by tapping the power of new sources of energy like the wind and sun, and calling upon all nations to do their part. And I pledge to you that in this global effort, the
To provide for our common security, we must strengthen our alliance. NATO was founded 60 years ago, after Communism took over
This marks the 10th year of NATO membership for the
The people of the
But no alliance can afford to stand still. We must work together as NATO members so that we have contingency plans in place to deal with new threats, wherever they may come from. We must strengthen our cooperation with one another, and with other nations and institutions around the world, to confront dangers that recognize no borders. And we must pursue constructive relations with
Now, one of those issues that I'll focus on today is fundamental to the security of our nations and to the peace of the world - that's the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.
The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. No nuclear war was fought between the
Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.
Now, understand, this matters to people everywhere. One nuclear weapon exploded in one city - be it
Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked - that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.
Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. (Applause.) And as nuclear power - as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the
So today, I state clearly and with conviction
Now, let me describe to you the trajectory we need to be on. First, the
To reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year. (Applause.) President Medvedev and I began this process in
To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue
And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the
Second, together we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.
The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.
And we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it's based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules. We must harness the power of nuclear energy on behalf of our efforts to combat climate change, and to advance peace opportunity for all people.
But we go forward with no illusions. Some countries will break the rules. That's why we need a structure in place that ensures when any nation does, they will face consequences.
Just this morning, we were reminded again of why we need a new and more rigorous approach to address this threat.
Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response - (applause) - now is the time for a strong international response, and
So let me be clear:
So, finally, we must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon. This is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. One terrorist with one nuclear weapon could unleash massive destruction. Al Qaeda has said it seeks a bomb and that it would have no problem with using it. And we know that there is unsecured nuclear material across the globe. To protect our people, we must act with a sense of purpose without delay.
So today I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. We will set new standards, expand our cooperation with
We must also build on our efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt this dangerous trade. Because this threat will be lasting, we should come together to turn efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism into durable international institutions. And we should start by having a Global
Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it's worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.
But make no mistake: We know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. We know the path when we choose fear over hope. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy but also a cowardly thing to do. That's how wars begin. That's where human progress ends.
There is violence and injustice in our world that must be confronted. We must confront it not by splitting apart but by standing together as free nations, as free people. (Applause.) I know that a call to arms can stir the souls of men and women more than a call to lay them down. But that is why the voices for peace and progress must be raised together. (Applause.)
Those are the voices that still echo through the streets of
Human destiny will be what we make of it. And here in
Thank you very much. Thank you,
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