Partnership for Global Security


Kenneth Fletcher
Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor (April 4, 2014 Edition)
Exchange Monitor Publications, Inc.

Photo Credit: Tom Jutte

The recent Nuclear Security Summit took important steps toward strengthening a regime beyond the summit process for protecting vulnerable material, though more work needs to be done to ensure progress in the future, nuclear security watchers said this week. A key achievement of the Summit held in the Hague was the so-called trilateral initiative, a joint statement drafted by the U.S., South Korea and The Netherlands in which 35 countries agreed to implement nuclear security recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency and engage in peer reviews to strengthen practices. “I would say if you signed up to this trilateral initiative and you fully implemented it, you’d have the beginnings of what are international standards for nuclear security. So the implementation of this particular initiative is quite important,” Ken Luongo, the president of the Partnership for Global Security, said this week at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.

The Nuclear Security Summit was launched by the Obama Administration in 2010 as a gathering of heads of state to address President Obama’s goal outlined in a 2009 speech—to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years. The 2010 meeting in Washington and the 2012 summit in Seoul resulted in announcements of vulnerable material removed and secured as well as commitments to improve nuclear security from numerous countries. But given that nuclear security threats still remain, officials have increasingly questioned how to maintain momentum after the last Summit takes place in 2016. “The question is, at the end of this are we going to end up with essentially the same system but we have this stack of specific outcomes which are useful but haven’t really changed the outcome of the game?” Luongo asked. “Or are we going to come out with something that says hey, the price of doing business is higher than it was before it all began and we ought to take that on as part of our responsibility as nuclear operating states. That’s the fundamental question that is not answered at the moment.”

Initiative Defines ‘Seriously Committed’ Countries

The trilateral initiative provided a “foundation” for moving ahead, Luongo said. The pledge was signed by several countries that possess nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, including the United Kingdom, France, Israel, and Kazakhstan, but included several notable omissions, including Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. “What it does do is it separates the countries into those that are more serious about the issue and those who will either have to explain why they didn’t sign or you have to assume that maybe they aren’t as serious as the ones who did,” Luongo said. “In a subtle way what the trilateral initiative did was it gave you a photo negative of those who are seriously committed and those who seem to be somewhat less seriously committed.”

‘Gaps’ Remain in Four-Year Goal

And while significant progress has been made on the four year goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials, numerous “gaps” remain and the goal was not met in time, Sharon Squassoni of CSIS said. “Those gaps have closed somewhat, but I don’t think you can say it’s this amount of material and the IAEA should work on that,” she said. “So where are the gaps moving forward? Obviously military material. There’s a lot of military material out there and obviously much of it is in the Russian and U.S. stockpiles, but it’s not clear to me that this process will be able to address that. But we in civil society can come up with recommendations for another process that can make some progress.” Numerous other countries also have outstanding material, she said, including Belarus, which was not part of the summit, and South Africa, which did not mention its highly enriched uranium stockpile in its report at the summit.