Month: April 2012

Chemical weapons destruction deadline missed

Chemical weapons destruction deadline missed

April 29, 2012, marks the final destruction deadline for chemical weapons, according to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The United States will miss this deadline, as will the Russian Federation and Libya. This inability to comply with a crucial treaty provision that the US Senate approved and the Clinton administration ratified back in April 1997 may be puzzling to some, but it certainly should not come as a surprise.

Plastic-wrapped planet

Plastic-wrapped planet

We can thank billiard balls for our modern-day, plastic-filled lives. For most of human history, everyday items such as combs were made from expensive animal parts, like tortoise shells. Then, in the 1860s, billiards became a popular pastime. Unfortunately, elephants had to be killed so that their ivory tusks could be made into billiard balls, and soon elephants were rapidly being hunted to extinction. One enterprising New York billiards supplier even offered $10,000 in gold to anyone who could come up with a good substitute for ivory.

How to succeed in Baghdad

How to succeed in Baghdad

As talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) move to Baghdad, leaders and analysts alike are wondering whether diplomacy will be any more successful now than during previous negotiations involving the Obama administration. To answer that question, it is important to understand why the previous talks failed and what is — or might be — different now.

Restarting nuclear talks with Iran: Old problems, some new hopes

Restarting nuclear talks with Iran: Old problems, some new hopes

After a hiatus of 15 months, Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, called the P5+1, met in Istanbul to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. Relations between Iran and the major powers have become so sour that, when the meetings ended, all sides viewed agreement to simply meet again next month in Baghdad as a major diplomatic triumph.

A security system commensurate with the risk of nuclear terrorism

A security system commensurate with the risk of nuclear terrorism

A hot mic shouldn’t overshadow a dirty bomb. The Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul ended recently with two dominant story lines: President Obama’s “hot mic” comments to Russian President Medvedev and the 53 participating governments congratulating themselves on the summit’s outcomes. Both miss the key strategic problem that the Seoul Summit did not address: the need to unify the current patchwork, largely voluntary approach to nuclear security that is not commensurate with the risk or consequences of nuclear terrorism.

Climate change and the military in China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Climate change and the military in China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States

The perspective of national security actors on climate change is important, if for no other reason than one simple reality: Militaries are important political actors in most countries, and their views can influence the overall course a government takes. But there are other reasons. Armed forces use sizeable amounts of natural and financial resources, making them important factors in national energy balances and effective competitors for government spending on climate change.

Is suspension the solution?

Is suspension the solution?

In talks with the United States late in February, North Korea agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment in a specific facility at Yongbyon and to initiate a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. When the United States and North Korea made the bilateral “leap-day deal,” the suspension of enrichment was rightly hailed as one of the great successes of the arrangement.

Preview: The North Korean launch

In mid-March, North Korea surprised the world by announcing plans to launch a satellite into orbit sometime between April 11 and April 15 (US time), to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim il-Sung, the revered founder and long-time ruler of North Korea. The imminent launch seemed to fly in the face of the announcement two weeks earlier that the United States and North Korea had agreed to a set of steps that included a ban on long-range missile tests by Pyongyang.

The case for the CTBT: Stronger than ever

The case for the CTBT: Stronger than ever

In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama outlined a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and pledged to “immediately and aggressively” pursue approval of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits any nuclear test explosions that produce a self-sustaining, supercritical chain reaction and creates a robust international verification regime.