By Maria Saporta
Two Japanese television stations were on hand today to cover the Sam Nunn Bank of America Policy Forum taking place at Georgia Tech over the past two days.
The topic? “Path Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons: the Euro-Atlantic Challenge.”
Once again, Atlanta and Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts has become a focal point to discuss policies related to the international threat of nuclear weapons.
“This path toward a world free of nuclear weapons is going to be much harder than just nuclear weapons,” said former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Georgia), who is now co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
In his closing remarks, Nunn set the stage for the difficult challenges that exist to eliminate nuclear weapons.
“We have to bear down on regional conflicts,” said Nunn, adding that the real danger was terrorists getting access to nuclear weapons and using them against an enemy. As long as there is are regional conflicts in regions, “countries are not going to give up on nuclear weapons.”
Another challenge is making sure that younger people, especially those that grew up after the Cold War, recognize the threats that nuclear weapons present.
“We’ve got to have a vigorous discussion with the young generation,” Nunn said.
It was in that spirit that Nunn and three fellow “Cold Warriors” decided to participate in a documentary: “Nuclear Tipping Point,” which was shown at the end of the Sam Nunn forum.
The idea for the documentary stemmed out of an editorial that Nunn, former chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote with George Shultz, who served as U.S. Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989; William Perry, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997; and Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977.
The guest editorial — “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons” — stirred strong, but mostly positive, reaction around the world.
As Nunn compared a world free of nuclear weapons as a “mountain-top.”
“Right now, we are not heading up that mountain,” Nunn said. “We are headed down.”
We need to take steps to go up the mountain, Nunn said, adding: “When we get to base camp, it’s going to be a different view.”
After the conference, I asked Nunn about how the current Obama administration in Washington, D.C. is addressing the issues of nuclear weapons.
“They’re very committed,” Nunn said. “I think the president is leading the way.”
In fact, Nunn said that many of the world’s top leaders are interested in eliminating nuclear weapons.
“We have the words from around the world,” Nunn said. “Now the hard work is addressing regional conflicts.”
At the end of the “Nuclear Tipping Point” documentary, there is a list of next steps that we must adopt to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.
The steps include:
Securing all nuclear weapons and materials globally to the highest standards.
Discarding Cold War practices for US and Russian nuclear forces to decrease the danger of accidental, mistaken or unauthorized launch.
Reducing substantially nuclear forces in all states that possess them.
Eliminating short-range battlefield nuclear weapons.
Halting the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons globally.
Developing cooperative missile defense and early warning systems.
Adopting a process for bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into effect.
Developing a new international system to manage the risks of producing fuel for nuclear power.
Phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce.
Strengthening verification and enforcement capabilities.
Redoubling efforts to resolve conflicts.