Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran (AFP/Getty Images)
Recent events indicate the US Government's efforts to thwart nuclear proliferation and terrorism have a long way to go. North Korea has vowed to continue its nuclear program even if offered additional economic aid. North Korea insists it will not abandon its nuclear program until the US stops its hostile policy and the nuclear threat against North Korea is dismantled. The North Korean Government maintains the US has pushed North Korea to acquire nuclear deterrence. The North Koreans have shown no interest in resuming the six-party talks with the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea to discuss denuclearization and improvement of relations.
Pakistan maintains an arsenal of nuclear weapons which worries the US because of Pakistan's political instability and the presence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistani tribal areas. On February 2, 2010, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said, "We have confidence in Pakistan's ability to safeguard its nuclear weapons though vulnerabilities exist..." in testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Specific information about the vulnerabilities has not been released publicly.
While in Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is denying a February 2010 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that says Iran may be secretly working on a nuclear warhead for a missile. Perhaps not coincidentally, Iran recently launched its first guided missile naval vessel, a destroyer named Jamaran, is capable of carrying surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes and naval cannons. The Jamaran is a step-up in class in Iranian naval capability and could potentially carry missiles with nuclear warheads.
The US, determined to defend American and Allied territory, reported the placement of part of its revised missile defense in Romania. President Traian Basescu announced Romania's acceptance of ground-based missile interceptors. The stated intent of the missile interceptors is to shoot down medium-range missiles from Iran. The previous missile defense plan offered by the Bush Administration, which featured ground-based missile interceptors in Poland, was rejected by the Russians as upsetting the current military balance. The Romanian missile interceptor site is further from the Russian border and uses smaller interceptors. Moscow's response was one of concern and demanded further explanations but there was no sense of alarm or threat to place Russian missiles in Kaliningrad, which the Russians did in 2007 when President Bush announced his missile defense plan.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Russia and the United States expired in December 2009 and a new treaty needs to be negotiated. Both Presidents Obama and Medvedev have expressed a desire to reduce weapons of mass destruction but agreement between both countries has not yet been reached.
Troubles at Home
Vice President Joe Biden announced the Obama Administration would pursue ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty as part of its quest to eradicate nuclear weapons. The Test Ban Treaty prohibits the explosion of nuclear devices or the testing of nuclear weapons. The Clinton Administration failed to ratify the Test Ban Treaty. Whether the Obama Administration has the political clout to push the treaty through the Senate remains to be seen.
In a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Barry Blechman, a former State Department employee and fellow at the Stimson Center, criticized the White House's incremental approach to global nuclear disarmament and advocated for a global nuclear disarmament treaty.
President Obama has planned a global nuclear security summit in Washington for March 2010. Perhaps a successful summit can be the catalyst for the White House's vision of a nuclear weapon-free world.