Leading article: President Obama's sound nuclear statesmanship

Only a consensual approach can meet the challenge of proliferation

Share
Related Topics

Sometimes the British political discourse reveals itself to be hopelessly parochial. The furore about Barack Obama's "snub" to Gordon Brown betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the Obama White House does business. This administration – unlike the previous one – is less interested in bunkering down with ideological allies like Britain than reaching across divides of mistrust to get things accomplished. In a hectic week such as this, Mr Obama, understandably, has little time to spend preaching to the choir.

The President's approach to nuclear proliferation demonstrates this new way of working. Mr Obama personally chaired a meeting of the United Nations Security Council yesterday which produced a resolution pledging fresh efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote disarmament. Mr Obama also wants America to ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, ending years of foot-dragging by the US.

All this activity represents a major boost to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NNPT), the great collective effort of 1968 to edge the world away from the precipice of nuclear destruction. The agenda of global nuclear disarmament has grown very forlorn in recent years. Any hopes that the end of the Cold War would bring a nuclear-free world closer were dashed by the secret development of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, India and North Korea. And now there are fears that Iran is moving down that same road.

The NNPT has also been undermined by the failure of the dominant nuclear powers of the Cold War – America, Russia, France, China and Britain – to reduce their stockpiles of weapons, as the treaty demands of them. President Obama is now showing that the world's remaining superpower is prepared to live up to its side of the bargain and will pressure others to do the same.

This renewed support for the multilateral principles of the NNPT is good global politics. It will undermine the argument made by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN General Assembly this week that America and other nuclear powers are simply hypocritical bullies, intent on keeping smaller nations in their place.

Mr Obama's efforts are a demonstration of good faith which his administration can take into meetings with the Iranian regime next month. They will also make it easier for the US to build a coalition of support for sanctions against Tehran should those talks break down.

What Mr Obama recognises is that the cynical principles of realpolitik have no utility when it comes to a challenge such as nuclear proliferation. For disarmament to become a reality, nations need to come to the negotiating table with not just their narrow self-interest, but a sense of the common global good in mind.

It is all too easy to see how a new global arms race could begin. If nuclear powers fail to reduce their stockpiles, smaller nations will continue to feel a need to level the playing field by creating their own capacity. As these states "go nuclear", larger regional powers such as Japan, Brazil and South Africa that had previously decided not to pursue nuclear weapons will feel pressure to join the race on the grounds of "security".

International statesmanship of a high order is needed to reverse this dismal dynamic and set the world on a safer course. It remains to be seen if he will be successful, but Mr Obama is certainly trying to rise to the occasion. All those who want a world free from the threat of nuclear annihilation need to pray he is successful.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn