Solutions For Nuclear Proliferation
Inan age where the nuclear threat from both rogue states and terroristorganizations weighs heavily on people’s minds, a FletcherSchool graduate says the U.S. must stop the problem at its root.Medford/Somerville,Mass.
Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.27.04] During the presidentialdebates, both President Bush and Senator John Kerry cited nuclearproliferation as the greatest threat facing the United Statestoday. The key to stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons,says a Fletcher School graduate and expert in the field, is tocut off access at the source.
“Themost difficult aspect of developing a nuclear weapon is gettingthe fissile materials,” Elizabeth Turpen – a seniorassociate at the Henry Stimson Center – said recently onC-SPAN’s Washington Journal. “Short-circuiting [terrorists’]potential to get access to nuclear weapons is related to the fissilematerials in the nuclear weapons themselves.”
Before joiningthe Center, a nonpartisan think tank focused on internationalpeace and security, Turpen worked as a legislative aide for U.S.Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and was responsible for studying nonproliferation,defense and foreign matters.
Border securityalone isn’t enough to address the problem.
“Asa free society with the degree of travel and communication, Idon't suggest that higher fences at our border is the most effectivepreventative step to take,” Turpen told C-SPAN, citing thewar on drugs as an example of the ineffectiveness of border controlas a counter against the entry of unwanted materials into thecountry.
But politicaland economic pressure can be very effective.
“Youneed to look at the regional considerations that are driving [countriesto pursue nuclear weapons] and... try to create a situation wherethe regional situation is such that those states make a differentdecision based on their desire to be part of the global economiccommunity,” Turpen said.
As an example,she cited the Nunn-Lugar program, which began in the former SovietUnion in 1991 to facilitate the transfer of nuclear arms fromBelarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to Russia -- thus removing thosethree emerging nations from the nuclear sphere.
“Statesdo make calculations like that related to being part of the globaleconomic community and providing good jobs for their people,”Turpen told the network.
But terroristorganizations – which Turpen believes pose a greater nuclearthreat than nations such as North Korea or Iran – don’trespond to political and economic pressures like sovereign nationsdo.
As a result,securing nuclear materials is critical to protecting the U.S.and its allies.
“Thelikelihood of any particular terrorist getting their hands onfissile materials is largely related to how many fissile materialsare out there that are inadequately secured,” Turpen toldC-SPAN. “And I would suggest that the world is awash inthese materials,”
Dirty bombsor gun-type nuclear devices could be developed by the terroristswho obtain such capabilities, Turpen said, adding the U.S. couldbe a prime target.
“I feellike the U.S. is the lightening rod for those types of attacks,”the Fletcher School graduate said. “It's the unipolar worldand we are the superpower still out there with all the wherewithalthat we do have.”
Despite advancementsin technology designed to make the world safer, the threat ofdanger will probably never be completed eliminated.
“Thehuman pattern that I would suggest as most frightening is thefact that every time we reach a different level of technologicalsophistication we figure out the most destructive use of thattechnology,” Turpen said.
Still, shepointed to the outpouring of sympathy toward the US on September11 as a sign that causing a global catastrophe may not be a primaryconcern of even the most belligerent nations.
“I thinkmost people are not of the mind that mass destruction and bloodlettingof civilians is an appropriate tool to achieve anything,”Turpen said.