Leaders and diplomats from 47 countries gathered in Washington this week to forge a unified nuclear policy. What did (or didn't) they accomplish?
posted on April 15, 2010
President Obama's nuclear security summit concluded Tuesday night, after two days of meetings among leaders and diplomats from 47 countries. The Obama administration hails the summit as a success, saying it made the world a safer place. But the summit's aims were so "modest and uncontroversial," says Tony Karon at Time, it was almost automatically "a success." (Watch a CBS report about the nuclear summit's achievements.) Here, 5 noteworthy outcomes from the gathering:
It cut the worldwide stock of nuclear materials
In addition to the Russian-American deal to reduce stocks of excess plutonium, countries such as the Ukraine, Chile, Mexico and Canada agreed to get rid of enriched uranium. Malaysia agreed to limit the sale of nuclear-related materials. President Obama's call to "lock up all vulnerable [nuclear] material in four years" was endorsed by all 47 participants, though any method for accomplishing that goal remains "disappointingly squishy," says the New York Times.
It let Iran off the hook...
"The summit did nothing to lessen the biggest state-based threat to international security today – Iran’s nuclear ambitions," says Nile Gardiner in the Daily Telegraph. While the U.S. pushed for "tough sanctions" to "choke off investment in Iran's energy sector," says Tony Karon at Time, neither China nor Russia played ball. While both agreed to further talks on sanctioning Iran, an agreement to impose them is further away than ever.
... but also sent it a serious message
"The U.S. doesn't need to drive Iran into a sanctions-led economic depression," says Max Fisher at The Atlantic. "It just needs the credible threat that it could." And this summit's will-they-or-won't-they act from Russia and China provided a "tremendous deterrent to Iran's leadership," who simply cannot afford to lose business from those countries.
It brought nuclear terrorism into the spotlight...
Obama's warning on the risk of a nuclear attack — it has "gone up," he told leaders at the summit — sounded "genuinely scary" coming from a president who uses such dramatic language sparingly, says Michael Crowley at NPR. "Merely getting people to focus on nuclear terrorism in this way is a step forward."
... but also failed to make us safer from it
Even though the summit focused "world attention on the nuclear threat," it did not actually do much to address it, continues Crowley. Unfortunately, "high-minded calls to action" don't mean much to rogue states like Iran or North Korea. Obama and the Democrats called it a big deal, says Suzanne Fields at the Washington Times, but it's "hard to find anyone who thinks it was anything more than big talk."