A new American president and nuclear weapons

As one of the longest and most closely followed US campaigns has drawn to a close, the implications of this election for getting to zero are unknown. The next president faces the monumental challenge of coping with two wars and a worldwide economic crisis. These issues may detract from the time and energy that the next Administration can spend on nuclear security. Whether overly optimistic or not, the current consensus shared amongst world leaders is that President-elect Barack Obama is the right man for the job and is equipped with the diplomatic and foreign policy skills necessary to force progress on numerous issues, including nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

Throughout his campaign, Senator Obama committed himself to nuclear disarmament on numerous occasions. Having cited issues such as the strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the reduction of American stockpiles, the President-elect has created a persuasive belief within the disarmament community that progress will be made under his administration. Moreover, while in the Senate, Obama worked on a bi-partisan basis with colleague Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, on Cooperative Threat Reduction programs. Senator Joe Biden, who is now the Vice President-elect, declared the importance of the Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn Wall Street Journal op-ed, emphasizing that the issue had been pushed to the top of the Democrat’s election agenda. Obama made clear during his campaign, however, that he is not prepared to become an idealist, stating that the United States will not pursue unilateral disarmament as long as nuclear weapons exist.

Senator Obama has established, initially at least, a strong network of support on the international stage. Leaders rallied last Wednesday to lend their backing to the 44th American President, underlining his influence in global politics. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and European Commission President José Emmanuel Barroso, were just some of the many leaders that have been speedy in congratulating the Senator on his achievement.

This popularity is likely to be exploited by the Obama Administration in order to encourage support for American projects with the international community. Non-proliferation would certainly benefit from such leverage. In recent months, the financial crisis has demonstrated that world leaders and governments alike are capable of collaborating almost instantaneously in order to address a global threat. If countries are able to coordinate efforts to eradicate threats to the world economy, it is certainly within reason to suggest that the same mindset can be applied to non-proliferation. President-elect Obama’s transition team has already been meeting to plan how it will address the economic crisis. Let’s hope that his team will soon take the time to meet the challenge of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

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