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14 Apr, 2010 10:33

ROAR: After a nuclear security forum, two more will deal with non-proliferation

ROAR: After a nuclear security forum, two more will deal with non-proliferation

The global nuclear security summit in Washington was more a symbolic event than a practical one, and the US was more interested in securing support in the Iranian issue, analysts believe.

The leaders of 47 countries and international organizations agreed at the summit to make joint efforts to protect their nuclear materials and to exchange information in this sphere.

President Dmitry Medvedev described the gathering as very successful, saying that the participants were “unanimous” in assessing the current situation.

According to a memorandum prepared by Moscow for the summit, all nuclear material on Russian territory is safely protected and physically secured. Russia and the US also signed a protocol updating the 2000 agreement on eliminating excess weapon-grade plutonium from defense programs.

This month, Russia will shut down its last weapons-grade plutonium manufacturing facility, Medvedev said in Washington. He added that after the signing of the new strategic arms reduction treaty with the US, Russia is ready for further reduction of nuclear offensive potential.

The main task of the summit in Washington was to find ways of securing nuclear materials, observers say. US President Barack Obama stressed the need to fight the potential efforts by terrorist groups to seize such materials.

Obama is not the first leader to speak on this threat, but he has proposed discussing concrete steps to secure nuclear materials in the world in the next four years, Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said.

“In this regard, it was logical to see at the summit representatives of the countries to which the international community has questions about their nuclear ambitions,” the daily said. “But neither Iranians nor North Koreans were invited to Washington, probably for violations of the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” it added.

At the same time, Israel, India and Pakistan received invitations for the forum, even though they have not joined the treaty on non-proliferation, the paper noted.

The summit was set “to strengthen Obama’s image as a fighter against nuclear weapons and their proliferation,” Kommersant daily said. “To persuade world leaders to join the crusade for a tomorrow without nuclear weapons under Barack Obama’s leadership, the White House used the format of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the forum.”

Every guest while meeting Obama “tried to demonstrate loyalty to the White House’s nuclear agenda, but at the same time wanted to mention their own priorities,” the daily said. Thus, Obama promised to support Kazakhstan’s efforts in securing regional stability and to continue financial aid to Pakistan, it added.

The US also hailed the decision by Ukraine to dispose of the country’s enriched uranium stockpiles by 2012 and promised to provide technical and financial assistance for the purpose of doing so. Kiev also expects the support of the US in reforming its economy and resuming cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, the paper said.

The summit in Washington will hardly bring about any breakthrough in non-proliferation, Vedomosti daily noted. It was instead supposed to change the rules of the market of dangerous technologies and materials, it added.

The changes should make the acting players work openly and to force shadow players to act legally, the paper said. The majority of countries that earlier obtained dangerous nuclear materials are ready “to sell their part of the world’s evil for a good price to key players – the US, Russia or Western countries,” the daily said.

At the same time, it will be more difficult to force Iran or make it interested in selling its part, the paper noted. “Iran is a more self-sufficient country than Libya or North Korea,” it added. “The nuclear program is not a subject of trade for Tehran, but a symbol of prestige that supports the country’s claims for the role of regional superpower, or, speaking in broader terms, the leader of the Islamic world.”

It is still not clear which role Russia is choosing for itself in this issue, the paper said. “The experience of working with Iran, the knowledge of sensitive points of its economy may turn Russia into a key player in the issue of new sanctions and the development of international politics toward Iran.”

The current Russian position to avoid sanctions and use only political and diplomatic ways may “pave the way to a nuclear Iran,” the daily noted.

However, Medvedev made it clear in Washington that sanctions may be necessary “as Iran has still not reacted to constructive compromises it was offered.” Tehran has created “particular problems,” the president said, speaking at the Brookings Institute, a leading US think tank. “I of course would not like to see sanctions imposed, but at a certain point they can become inevitable,” he stressed.

The US president used the nuclear security summit to reinforce pressure on Tehran, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily wrote. The White House said that China had agreed to cooperate with other members of the UN Security Council to toughen the regime of sanctions against Tehran.

This may be the main result of the gathering in Washington, the paper said, adding that Beijing until recently remained the only member state of the Security Council that hindered the process of toughening sanctions. However, Moscow is also reluctant to punish Tehran, the paper noted, citing Medvedev’s interview with ABC News.

Iran is preparing its response to Washington by hosting an international nuclear security forum – with the motto “Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For No One” – due to be held on April 17-18. Moscow has said it will participate in the conference.

The forum in Tehran may become a symbolic forum rather than a practical one, some observers believe. However, the summit in Washington seems to be of the same kind. The idea was floated by the US president, for whom the topic of non-proliferation is very important, believes Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of magazine Russia in Global Affairs.

It is really one of the most serious international problems, and the authority of the US as a country that is able to control processes in the world depends on solving this issue, Lukyanov told Actualcomment.ru website.

The fact is that non-proliferation has been getting out of control for the last 20 years and extraordinary measures are necessary to take it under control again, the analyst noted. It is unclear if these measures will work, but the US administration has chosen this topic “to show that Washington is able to solve global issues,” he added.

The practical value of the forum in Washington was reduced by the absence of the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Israel, Lukyanov said. Yet the very fact that so many world leaders came to the summit at a time when a lot of issues should be solved, including those connected with the lack of dialogue, is positive, he stressed.

The analyst believes that the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to be held at the UN Headquarters in May is expected to bring more practical results – but not all analysts believe in its success, he noted.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT