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Obama Security Strategy Stresses WMD Threat

(May. 27) -U.S. President Barack Obama, shown yesterday. The White House today released its National Security Strategy that outlines the administration's efforts to counter nuclear and other WMD threats (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images). (May. 27) -U.S. President Barack Obama, shown yesterday. The White House today released its National Security Strategy that outlines the administration's efforts to counter nuclear and other WMD threats (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images).

U.S. President Barack Obama's National Security Strategy, released today, describes nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction as the "gravest danger to the American people and global security" and outlines actions long stressed by his administration as necessary in addressing the threat (see GSN, May 24).

"The American people face no greater or more urgent danger than a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon. And international peace and security is threatened by proliferation that could lead to a nuclear exchange," the document states.

"Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, the risk of a nuclear attack has increased. Excessive Cold War stockpiles remain. More nations have acquired nuclear weapons. Testing has continued. Black markets trade in nuclear secrets and materials. Terrorists are determined to buy, build, or steal a nuclear weapon. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global nonproliferation regime that has frayed as more people and nations break the rules," says the strategy.

To address the nuclear dangers, the strategy advocates adding enforcement mechanisms to deter violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, confronting nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea, securing loose nuclear weapons and materials within four years, assisting other countries in the development of civilian nuclear power programs and working to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Global nuclear disarmament will not be achieved during Obama's presidential term, but "its active pursuit and eventual achievement will increase global security, keep our commitment under the NPT, build our cooperation with Russia and other states, and increase our credibility to hold others accountable for their obligations," the strategy states.

"As long as any nuclear weapons exist, the United States will sustain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal, both to deter potential adversaries and to assure U.S. allies and other security partners that they can count on America’s security commitments," says the document, which notes a nuclear arms control pact that Obama signed last month with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"We are reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national security approach, extending a negative security assurance not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against those non-nuclear nations that are in compliance with the NPT and their nuclear nonproliferation obligations, and investing in the modernization of a safe, secure, and effective stockpile without the production of new nuclear weapons.

"We will pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And we will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons," the strategy adds.

The document also addresses the threat of bioterrorism.

Carried out effectively, a biological-weapon strike "would endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and have unprecedented economic, societal, and political consequences," it states.

"We must continue to work at home with first responders and health officials to reduce the risk associated with unintentional or deliberate outbreaks of infectious disease and to strengthen our resilience across the spectrum of high-consequence biological threats.

"We will work with domestic and international partners to protect against biological threats by promoting global health security and reinforcing norms of safe and responsible conduct; obtaining timely and accurate insight on current and emerging risks; taking reasonable steps to reduce the potential for exploitation; expanding our capability to prevent, attribute, and apprehend those who carry out attacks; communicating effectively with all stakeholders; and helping to transform the international dialogue on biological threats," the strategy states (Diane Barnes, Global Security Newswire, May 27).

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