The just-concluded fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit saw some serious progress, but also some missed opportunities.
On the progress side:
On the missed opportunity side:
The question now is: where do we go from here? As discussed in our new report, the US government and other interested states need to push hard to keep high-level attention focused on continuous improvement in nuclear security and on combating complacency. We make a number of suggestions on how to do that in our new report–including a shared global database of real nuclear security incidents (or non-nuclear incidents that highlight tactics or capabilities adversaries might use at a nuclear site) and lessons learned about how to prevent similar incidents in the future, and expanded use of realistic nuclear security performance tests against intelligent adversaries looking for ways to defeat them.
The United States should also put high priority on rebuilding nuclear security cooperation with Russia, on a different, more equal model. Russia’s decision not to take part in the summit was a mistake, only isolating Russia further, as was its decision in late 2014 to cut off most US-Russian nuclear security cooperation. In a world grappling with threats from the Islamic State and other bloodthirsty terrorist groups, it is essential that the two countries with the world’s largest nuclear stockpiles and the world’s greatest stores of experience in nuclear security find ways to work together to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of terrorist hands.
The next U.S. president needs a plan for taking on the Islamic State and other terrorist groups–and that plan has to include steps to prevent them from ever getting their hands on the ingredients of nuclear terror.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the website of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
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