The 47-nation/three international-governance-body Washington Nuclear Security Summit has concluded. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) just yawns:
“The summit’s purported accomplishment is a nonbinding communique that largely restates current policy and makes no meaningful progress in dealing with nuclear terrorism threats or the ticking clock represented by Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a prominent critic of Obama’s nuclear policies.
“Prominent” is not the same as “sensible,” or even “alert.” Yes, it’s true. The summit did not cause the Iranian government to renounce its illicit uranium enrichment. Nor did it convince the North Koreans to relinquish their stockpile of nuclear weapons. But there’s just no way that Kyl’s criticism holds water, and it calls into question whether he actually understands what just happened over the last two days.
As I wrote yesterday, we now enter a period of two years’ worth of implementation on nuclear security, and that will determine the ultimate success of the conference. But nothing here “restates current policy” for 46 nations on the planet. Here’s Laura Holgate, a National Security Council senior aide, explaining to the press yesterday what the communique will yield:
We would expect to see consolidation of stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, and reduction in the use of highly enriched uranium. Action on the communiqué would increase the number of countries signing up to some of the key international treaties that you’ve been hearing about on nuclear security/nuclear terrorism, as well as add to those countries who are cooperating under mechanisms like the global initiatives to combat nuclear terrorism, building capacity for nuclear security among law enforcement, industry and technical personnel.
The communiqué also calls for the International Atomic Energy Agency to receive the financial and expert support that it needs to develop nuclear security guidelines and to provide advice for its member states on how to implement them.
None of this consensus existed before the summit. Certainly no concerted action outside what the U.S. and the Russians agreed to do under the Nunn-Lugar nuclear-security initiative took place to any meaningful degree. Kyl is entitled to be skeptical that any of this is meaningful. He’s not entitled to say the nuclear-security landscape is unchanged from Sunday.
Similarly, to say that the summit represents “no meaningful progress in dealing with nuclear terrorism threats” is to ignore the fact that Chile and Canada and Mexico just agreed to swap out their highly-enriched uranium stocks and the U.S. and Russia just agreed to destroy enough plutonium for 17,000 nuclear bombs and Ukraine will eliminate all its highly-enriched uranium, to say nothing of other “house gifts” for elimination of weapons-grade material. Nor does it describe the commitment made to strengthen, with real verifiable financial investment, legal, regulatory and export mechanisms to monitor the movement of nuclear material and lock down what nuclear material exists. “To the extent that countries maintain nuclear materials — whether in their civil or military sector — the solution to making sure that terrorists don’t get it is straightforward,” Gary Samore of the NSC explained yesterday. “It’s just a question of putting the resources in place — the programs in place in order to ensure that it’s well protected and accounted for.” That actually *removes the threat *of nuclear terrorism, since if terrorists can’t get the nuclear material, there can’t be any nuclear terrorism. Again: while implementation is the key, the nuclear-security world is different and much better this morning than it was on Sunday.
Finally: What about Iran? The Obama administration believes it’s gotten Chinese President Hu Jintao’s acquiescence to pushing a sanctions resolution through the United Nations Security Council after a meeting between Obama and Hu at the summit. Again, we’ll see. But a consequence of the summit, clearly, is diplomatic isolation of proliferant countries or violators of the nuclear-security rules of the road. In a matter of weeks, that isolation will be marshaled at the U.N., first in a sanctions resolution targeting the Iranian regime’s financial interests and then in a May conference to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. If Kyl would prefer the U.S. simply wave its fist at Iran and fail to rally international support for confronting its enrichment activities, we saw the result of that approach over the past seven years: thousands of spinning Iranian centrifuges. And hundreds of tons of unsecured nuclear material that terrorists could attempt to steal.