"Nuclear issues are important and no one is talking about them."
That is the notion that former United States Ambassador Linton Brooks presented at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy Monday evening. The meeting accomplished just that with over fifty people in attendance and lasting for over 90 minutes.
Brooks suggests that while nuclear issues are clearly important in today's world and a nuclear attack still remains a threat, nothing in today's world compares to the threat that the Soviet Union provided during the Cold War.
"I want to cover three important developments since the end of the Cold War," said Brooks. "The first is the evolution of the nuclear relationship with Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union. The second is the growing importance of non-proliferation in nuclear terrorism as direct physical challenges to the United States. The third is the movement for nuclear abolition from the fringes to the center of the policy debate."
In 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation and the United States signed the START I Treaty, or Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which governed the two nation's actions involving nuclear arsenals until December of 2009.
The threat of nuclear terrorism and the difficulties involved in getting abolition to work are something that my generation will have to deal with for the rest of our lives. Matthew Kelley, junior in Business ManagementUnlike during the Cold War, the Russian government cooperated heavily with its U.S. counterpart to reduce the number of nuclear arsenals in each country's possession.
In April of 2010, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev signed a new START treaty which seeks to strengthen the nuclear ties between the former Cold War opponents even more.
Brooks suggests that the threat has turned from Russia, whom he says still has the power to destroy the United States with its arsenal today, to developing countries trying to gain power through nuclear weapons. The threat lies in who is in power in these countries.
"A lot of the concern over Iran and North Korea is both of them have long records of sponsoring terrorism," said Brooks. "And while I don't believe that either of them are likely to give nuclear weapons to terrorists, because both of them value control and they lose control if they do that...We know that they have enabled terrorists in the past and so we worry about that."
With the growing threat of nuclear weapons spreading into countries around the globe, nuclear abolition has taken a key spot in the policy debate. Brooks raises the question of feasibility in the abolition debate calling himself a skeptic on abolition.
In order for abolition to occur three issues would have to be taken care of according to Brooks:
- A political issue in that every nuclear power would have to be willing to give them up at essentially the same time.
- A verification issue in that no one can be certain every nuclear power got rid of every single weapon.
- Finally, an enforcement issue that exists in that that without a worldwide government, no one country can force every other country not to make nuclear weapons peacefully.
"The issues raised by Ambassador Brooks tonight are very thought provoking," said junior in business management Matt Kelley. "The threat of nuclear terrorism and the difficulties involved in getting abolition to work are something that my generation will have to deal with for the rest of our lives, and I am just glad that the Baker Center invites officials like the ambassador in to get us talking about them."