Nuclear Security and President Obama
Arkady DZIUBA | 18.11.2014 | FEATURED STORY

Nuclear Security and President Obama

Russia skipped preparatory meetings informing that it no longer planned to participate in the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. The decision spurred another wave of anti-Russia propaganda. 

On November 5 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made public the Comment by the Information and Press Department on US media reports that Russia does not intend to take part in preparations for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. The document says, «Russia shared with its US colleagues its doubts regarding the added value of the 2016 forum to be held in the United States». The statement points out that «Russia can’t but oppose Washington’s intention to have working groups formed arbitrarily and with limited membership devise guidelines for such international bodies and initiatives as the UN, the IAEA, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Global Partnership and Interpol». 

The West says that Russia’s actions are dictated by the US stand on Ukraine. The Moscow’s desire to annoy the United States makes pale all other things, including the fight against nuclear terrorism. 

What really happened? A cursory look at history is enough to see that the events of this kind are always initiated by Barack Obama who made nuclear disarmament and prevention of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists the main themes of his 2008 presidential campaign. These issues were also in focus of the president's 2009 Prague speech. No matter the International Atomic Energy Agency is the leading UN organization responsible for nuclear security, Obama insisted that his proposal would be a major breakthrough. Those days they tried to enhance the Obama’s image to make him look kind of messiah destined to bring the Immanuel Kant’s perpetual peace to the world. Obama had associates to support his stance on the issue. 

The nuclear summits started to take place regularly. Since then the 2010 nuclear summit was held in the United States followed by the 2012 top level meeting in South Korea and the 2014 nuclear security summit in The Hague. Russia participated in all the three events. The international nuclear security summits’ final communiques defined the major measures and action points aimed at improving nuclear security. The participants also prepared the joint Washington Work Plan. It was agreed in principle that the International Atomic Energy Agency had the needed expertise to coordinate the international efforts. 

It should be noted that the success of nuclear summits is a matter of special importance for Obama. His tenure is getting closer to the end. Many believe his presidency is a failure, especially in foreign policy. 

Of course, he still has two years to improve the image in the eyes of future generations. Until now he has no accomplishments to go down in history. The nuclear non-proliferation is probably one of few things he can claim credit for. 553 states and 5 international organizations took part in the recent event. Since 2009, 12 states transported uranium out of their territories. After the Seoul summit 15 tons of highly enriched uranium were converted into lowly enriched uranium which is not usable for weapons but can serve as fuel for nuclear power plants. 

Russia is the only state in possession of nuclear capability comparable to that of the United States. Its participation is crucial for the success of efforts to enhance nuclear security. 

By refusing to take part in the 2016 event to be held in the United States Russia strikes a telling blow against Washington. What prompted it to do so? 

The problem has two aspects – one is generally of political nature while the other is related to nuclear security. The political aspect is defined by international context of the last summit in The Hague.

It took place on March 24-25 right after Crimea became part of Russia. Actually the summit turned into an anti-Russia event. It was agreed on the sidelines that Russia would be excluded from G8. According to the Guardian, Obama was not asked a single question immediately related to nuclear security - the only thing journalists were interested in was the US response to the «Russian threat».

How can one comment on the situation? The success of the summit is of paramount importance for Obama as a politician. The very attendance of Russia is a key factor to success. An attempt to ostracize Russia would be the most brazen act of political arrogance on the part of US president. The refusal to take part in the 2016 summit is a natural and adequate reaction to such behavior. 

The same applies to the second aspect of the problem. Things could be better. Russia signed the final declaration of the Hague summit which contains a number of constructive proposals. At that, together with 17 other states it refused to sign the Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation Initiative - which envisions that the parties would put their nuclear sites under international control. The Initiative will be imposed on the International Atomic Energy Agency so that it would include it into its standards. Then each member-state is to make the document’s provisions part of its national legislation. There's more to it. The initiative was launched against the background of long-term diplomatic move with an attractive name Gift Basket Diplomacy. The move is related to the problem of nuclear control. The United States started to implement it in the period between the 2010 and 2012 summits. It has its reasons to do so and, in a nutshell, it boils down to the following. There are many participants in the summits and sometimes unanimity is hard to achieve. If the final document cannot be agreed on because of differences on key issues, then a small number of states with similar stances on the given issue may stop further efforts to find a compromise and take an independent decision. One can read the text of the independently adopted document on the official website of the summit published together with the documents adopted unanimously. Then the undecided states are exerted pressure on by imposing Gift Basket on them. The goal is to leave those who refuse the diktat of Washington in minority and make them look like non-negotiable partners if not rogue states. 

Any self-respecting state would refuse such «gifts». That’s what Russia did. It does not imply changing fundamental approaches to the problem of nuclear arms control. According to the statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the cooperation between Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency will continue to strengthen. Let others deal with the falling rating of President Obama.

Tags: IAEA  UN  Russia  US