Tipping Point

The world stands at a “tipping point” in proliferation that could lead to catastrophic acts of terrorism with nuclear weapons or crude nuclear devices without resolute leadership and multilateral action, the Congressionally mandated Strategic Posture Review Commission warned lawmakers last month in its interim report. Indeed, if Iran and North Korea are allowed to proceed unchecked with their efforts to build nuclear arsenals, there is “likely to be a proliferation cascade that would greatly increase the risks of nuclear use and terrorism,” stated the panel, which is chaired by former Defense Secretary William Perry. Congress tasked the commission with examining the military capabilities, arms control initiatives, and nonproliferation strategies associated with the nation’s strategic posture. Its final report is expected on April 1. The panel reported that, with each new nuclear power, the probability of a terrorist group acquiring a nuclear bomb increases. Therefore, it said, four security imperatives have emerged: reducing and providing better protection for existing nuclear stockpiles and fissile material; keeping new nations from going nuclear; providing effective protection for the fissile material generated by enrichment activities, reprocessing facilities, and commercial nuclear reactors; and improving tools to detect clandestine delivery of nuclear weapons and to disable and otherwise defend against them. The panel said that none of these imperatives can be achieved unilaterally and will instead require the cooperation of other nations, especially Russia. While the commission said it is prepared “strongly to endorse” negotiations with Russia on further reduction in nuclear forces—such moves must not incentivize China to increase its nuclear capabilities.