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In an intimate side room, this late addition panel discussed how the international community could control weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Jeff Pryce, Steptoe & Johnson, moderated the panel.
Laura Holgate, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction, opened the panel by outlining the great strides the Obama administration has made in fostering international cooperation to reduce the potential threat of nuclear weapons. As a presidential candidate, Senator Obama identified nuclear weapons as the greatest risk facing the world. Through the Nuclear Security Summits, fifty-three states, which account for 99% of the nuclear material on the planet, come together with the goal of upgrading the institutional framework controlling nuclear materials. Ms. Holgate also spoke on the Obama Administration’s approach to addressing biological weapons through the twelve actionable targets in the Global Health Security Agenda, whereby the solution is similar to natural disease response and prevention. Through the example of the most recent Ebola outbreak, Ms. Holgate explained how when countries have a proper health infrastructure, the spread of infectious diseases is limited the impact.
Next, Deepti Choubey, SAIS Foreign Policy Institute, discussed the issues facing the NPT and the current nuclear regime. Ms. Choubey acknowledged that the NPT features an inherent imbalance between the nuclear haves and have-nots. The P5 nuclear-armed states have the potential to do more in terms of reducing their nuclear arsenal, while the non-nuclear states are constantly asked to do more. Additionally, three years following the 1995 decision to make the NPT indefinite, India and Pakistan acquired nuclear arms, raising questions of the treaty’s overall effectiveness. To further exacerbate the issue, the United States reached a cooperation agreement with India to help support their peaceful nuclear capabilities, despite their violation of the NPT, leaving the non-nuclear states to question the point of the regime. Despite noting the key flaws in the NPT, Ms. Choubey expanded on the clear advantage of the framework, in that the number of nuclear-armed states has not drastically increased as projected.
Finally, Peter Sawczak of the OPCW noted the key successes the OPCW has had in curtailing the use of chemical weapons. Ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention is near universal and it is possible that within eight years. Mr. Sawczak noted the highlights of the OPCW mission to remove chemical weapons from Syria. Noting that without Russia and United States having agreed to the framework, than it would have been impossible for to destroy the stockpile. Additionally, the Syria mission added extra issues of destruction at sea, that required a high level of international cooperation. While pointing out the successes of the OPCW, Mr. Sawczak noted there are still questions facing the organization, including the role of non-state actors, how to address new technologies, and how can we insure inspections.
Over the course of the question and answer session, all of the panellists and moderator discussed a number of practical issues that states are facing, including new technology, bringing North Korea to the negotiating table in good faith, and the overlapping of binding and non-binding measures to strengthen the toolkit of prevention.
R. Carter Parét is a contributing editor for ASIL Cables and third-year law student at American University Washington College of Law, where he serves as the Deputy Symposium Editor for the American University International Law Review.