This month is witnessing a flurry of conferences on nuclear disarmament. Global Zero has a ‘summit’ conference in London on Wednesday and Thursday this week, to educate and energize in support of abolishing nuclear weapons. It coincides with the UK launch of ‘Countdown to Zero’ (for screenings through UK: http://basicint.org/news/2011/uk-launch-countdown-zero). Participants at another meeting elsewhere in Europe under a Norwegian-Swiss government project this week will discuss realistic strategies for speeding up the process of delegitimizing the threat and possession of nuclear weapons within the international system – going beyond arms control towards full nuclear disarmament. There are more next week.
Back in Washington, President Barack Obama could be on the back foot in his own push for a world free from nuclear weapons. Whether it is ratifying a ban on testing nuclear weapons, encouraging progress on a zone free of WMD in the Middle East, reaching agreements with Russia over missile defense or working on more reductions in nuclear arsenals; the campaign season leading up to November 2012 will drain the time, energy and goodwill necessary to achieve substantial progress on these initiatives.
After enduring the challenges of passing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) last December, the Administration is well aware of key conservative Republicans' challenge to the arms control agenda. The Senate Republican Whip, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, has continued to rail against New START and has already disapproved of two nuclear free-zone treaty protocols for Africa and the South Pacific that the President recently submitted to the Senate for advice and consent.
The risks of losing the global disarmament momentum as a result of domestic U.S. politics are real. The consequences are immeasurable. While it is clearly important that the international dynamics of disarmament are discussed, we also at the same time need to keep our feet on the ground and address the domestic obstacles that prevent people from building the necessary political will to tackle the issue.
These are the personal views of the author.
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