Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> United Nations -> Nuclear Non-Proliferation

ItemUnited Nations
Nuclear Non-ProliferationGrade
The Promise: "...will work with our allies and other countries to achieve a successful outcome in 2010 that strengthens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 09/23/08.
Status:President Obama presided over a historic summit meeting on 09/24/09 at the UN during which 13 other Heads of State and Government and the UN Security Council pledged broad progress on "long-stalled efforts to staunch the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ensure reductions in existing weapons stockpiles, as well as control of fissile materials."

This resulted in the unanimous adoption of UN Resolution 1887 which called for the setting of realistic goals for the 2010 Review Conference, a conference that must be held every 5 years. The month-long conference that ended on 05/28/10 in New York served more as a recovery from the failed conference of 2005 than it served to deliver on President Obama's goal promise of a strengthened NPT. For example, penalties the USA sought for countries that secretly develop nuclear weapons despite signing a pact that prohibits such development (i.e. North Korea), and language that would make countries accept tougher nuclear inspections were greatly weakened from what the USA proposed. Further, Israel (a non-NPT signatory) was singled out for its suspected nuclear program while no mention was made of Iran's suspected progress in developing a nuclear weapons capability.

At a minimum, the 2010 conference served to reaffirm the commitment of 189 countries toward the NPT. The conference wasn't a total failure, but it didn't achieve much in terms of strengthening the NPT either. Non-nuclear countries remain very unhappy that nuclear powers are not holding up their part of the original 40-year old pact that guaranteed nuclear energy to all NPT signatories.

As of early-CY2013, the treaty is holding but is considered extremely weak. Countries such as Pakistan question its continued viability in its present form.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will convene a summit in 2009 (and regularly thereafter) of leaders of Permanent Members of the UN Security Council and other key countries to agree on implementing many of these measures on a global basis."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 09/23/08.
Status:A promise is a promise and Obama was very specific about "2009".

Although the first Nuclear Security Summit was eventually held in Washington, D.C. on 04/12-13/10, with a focus on nuclear terrorism. Its result was a non-binding, non-enforceable, non-treaty communique that reflected a dubious international commitment to secure all nuclear materials by CY2015.

The next summit was hosted two years later on 03/26-27/12 by South Korea. Its outcome was more impressive with the establishment of 11 specific actions relevant to nuclear security.

The next Nuclear Security Summit will be held in the Netherlands in CY2014 so the "regularly thereafter" timeframe is interpreted to mean that this summit will be held every two years.

However, then-Candidate Obama was very specific concerning the convening of the first Nuclear Security Summit in CY2009, not CY2010. We believe that the President of the United States of America, the most powerful position in the world, is to be accountable to the exact wording of the promises that were made to secure that position.

This promise regarding the convening of a summit in CY2009 was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will work with the Senate to secure the ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date and will then launch a diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 09/23/08.
Status:On 10/13/99, the Senate rejected ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Ratification is considered crucial to keeping the wider scoped Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty viable.

As of 02/13, 157 of 183 countries have ratified the CTBT. The USA is one of 26 countries that have signed the CTBT (on 09/24/96) but have not yet ratified it. This includes China. China has indicated that it will ratify the CTBT if the USA ratifies it. Only 36 of 44 nuclear-capable states have ratified the treaty.

On 05/10/11, the Obama Administration announced before the Arms Control Association that it was ready to push for CTBT ratification, arguing that the U.S. has not needed to conduct nuclear tests in over 20 years. Rather, the U.S. seeks international support to stop other countries such as Iran from conducting such tests while discouraging an arms race in Asia where tests have been conducted, notably in India and Pakistan.

Support from two-thirds of the Senate is required for ratification to take place.

As of early-CY2013, this promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America entitled: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:Although there have been volumes of speeches on this topic by President Obama and members of his Administration at the United Nations and other venues, there have been no tangible steps toward "strengthening" the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968. North Korea and Iran have adopted an "in your face" attitude and continue to develop nuclear capabilities with impunity.

In all fairness, a nuclear security summit involving 38 heads of state and 9 senior national representatives was convened in Washington, D.C. in mid-04/10 and President Obama met with international partners at the United Nations in 05/10 to review global efforts on nuclear non-proliferation.

While these events led to stronger international sanctions against Iran, nothing of substance came about against North Korea to supplement the sanctions imposed against that country after two nuclear tests in CY2006 and CY2009. These sanctions banned North Korea from dealing in nuclear and ballistic materials and included a trade embargo. But North Korea has since succeeded in building a uranium enrichment plant and has ompleted work on a new long-range ballistic missile launch site at Donchang-ri on its west coast. It tested such a missile in 02/13.

Western nations are also concerned about shipping/transportation loopholes in the current sanctions against North Korea that facilitate its illegal exportation of ballistic missiles, components and technology to the Middle East (notably Iran) and South Asia through a neighboring third country, believed by many to be China.

Myanmar (formerly Burma), was a potential rogue state until 03/11 and is a 1992 signatory by accession of the NPT. Myanmar is suspected of having built the initial infrastructure for a nuclear program inside a mountain at Naung Laing in northern Myanmar. This was in violation of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreements, the latter having declared Southeast Asia as a nuclear weapons-free zone. Myanmar had been reaching its nuclear proliferation objectives possibly with missile development assistance from North Korea (its vessel "The Light," suspected of carrying missile-related items destined for Myanmar, was forced back to North Korea by the U.S. Navy on 06/12/11), combined with nuclear technician training assistance from Russia.

North Korea is also suspected of having helped Myanmar build a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction plant that would have permitted Myanmar to build nuclear weaponry as early as CY2014. But in early-10/11, a Myanmar diplomat told the UN General Assembly that his country lacked the means to develop nuclear weapons by itself. Further, the new government of President Thein Sein promised Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in 06/11 that it was abandoning its pursuit of any nuclear capabilities. This claim of cessation of nuclear development activities will have to be verified by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before it can be validated and considered true.

The Government of Myanmar announced on 11/21/12 that it was ready to sign an agreement allowing UN scrutiny of its nuclear facilities and materials, even if this means revelation of its partnership with North Korea to develop these facilities and materials.

Back to Iran. During the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference held in Hawaii on 11/12-13/11, President Obama failed to convince the leaders of Russia and China to join him in pushing for more severe sanctions against Iran in the aftermath of a UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 11/11 report that Iran was rapidly developing nuclear weapons. Both of these nations can exercise a veto-power vote at the UN Security Council, and are expected to do so, whenever more stringent sanctions against Iran are introduced there.

Despite initial progress made toward promise fulfillment with regard to Iran, the promised 'automatic' implementation of sanctions against any country that breaks the rules (such as Iran, North Korea and Myanmar before its change of government) has not happened.

This promise is therefore considered to be unfulfilled as of early-CY2013.
The Promise: " with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically by the end of an Obama presidency."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 09/23/08.
Status:The only nuclear power with which the USA has aggressively worked with the objective of nuclear stockpile reductions is Russia. A "New START" treaty was signed on 04/08/10 in Prague by Presidents Obama and Medvedev. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate in a 71-26 vote on 12/22/10, and by the Russian Government on 01/28/11.

The "other nuclear powers" addressed in this promise (i.e. France, United Kingdon, China, Pakistan, India, etc.) have not been engaged meaningfully to reduce their nuclear stockpiles. We won't even address North Korea and Iran.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will institutionalize the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a global initiative aimed at stopping shipments of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials worldwide...will expand the responsibilities of its members, not only in stopping illicit nuclear shipments, but also in eradicating nuclear black market networks."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 09/23/08.
Status:The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was initiated by President Bush on 05/31/03 to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials (chemical, biological, nuclear) to terrorists and countries believed to harbor desires to develop and/or produce WMD.

As of eearly-CY2013, 102 countries have recognized the PSI, including Russia, based on participation and not membership. China, concerned about the legality of interdictions, has declined to participate, as have North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, India, Pakistan.

The United Nations showed support for the PSI when it adopted Resolution 1540 in 04/04, obligating member states to prevent the transfer of materials that could be used to develop or produce WMD to entities prone to support terrorism activities. Meanwhile, South Korea reported on 08/19/10 that it had secured evidence (not verified by other sources) that commodities related to the weapons of mass destruction were allegedly being exported to North Korea via China, Japan, Russia, Mongolia and other countries.

North Korea is reportly taking advantage of shipping/transportation loopholes in UN Security Council sanctions imposed after North Korea conducted nuclear tests from CY2006 through early-CY2013. Through these loopholes, North Korea is believed to have illegally provided ballistic missiles, components and technology to countries in the Middle East (notably Iran) and South Asia (notably Myanmar), possibly via China.

As of early-CY2013, the PSI's effectiveness is hindered by scarce financial resources, lack of global coverage, unresolved issues regarding inspection of vessels in international waters, and (probably most important) the absence of any institutionalized organization to carry out the intended interdictions.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years - the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Document "A 21st Century Military for America" dated 11/26/07.
Status:President Obama provided leadership and guidance during the 04/12-13/10 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C.

During this summit, 47 nations succeeded in establishing concrete actions and decisions ranging from securing all of the world's vulnerable nuclear materials within 4 years to reducing the availability of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

However, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) acknowledged on 02/14/11 that the IAEA remains concerned about reports that Syria and Iran continue to build new nuclear facilities and their research on nuclear weaponization. Further, the IAEA issued a restricted report to its board and to the UN Security Council in early 11/11 that described Iran's nuclear work as "specific to nuclear weapons."

As of early-CY2013, nuclear weapons materials are believed to be as available in the Middle East as they are suspected to be in North Korea. Consequently, the risks related to their potential acquisition by terrorist organizations are extremely high.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will stop the development of new nuclear weapons..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:North Korea, Iran and possibly Myanmar (ex-Burma) continue their efforts to develop new nuclear weapons capabilities.

On 06/09/10, the UN Security Council voted 12 to 2 (Brazil and Turkey voted against and Lebanon abstained) in favor of U.S. sponsored sanctions against Iran over its suspected nuclear program, believed by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be for the development of new nuclear weapons. The 06/10 sanctions against Iran have not been effective and Iran continues to develop its nuclear capabilities.

Since CY2006, the UN has passed six resolutions against Iran's nuclear program. As a result of an 11/11 IAEA report regarding its belief that Iran is rapidly making progress in its reported nuclear weapon development program, President Obama tried to convince the leaders of Russia and China to join him in pushing for more severe sanctions against Iran during the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference held in Hawaii on 11/12-13/11. These nations, both of which can exercise a veto-power vote at the UN Security Council, did not support President Obama's initiative and the matter has not been brought up for a UN Security Council vote as of early-CY2013.

UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea were imposed after North Korea conducted nuclear tests in CY2006 and CY2009. These sanctions have not deterred North Korea and its development of long-range nuclear weapons has continued into President Obama's second term in office.

With North Korean and Russian assistance, Myanmar is was suspected of making progress in its development of a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction plant up to the change of government that occurred in 03/11. The widely reported objective of this initiative was for Myanmar to have nuclear weapons by CY2014.

In cooperation with North Korea, Syria is known to have a nuclear research facility. A Syrian nuclear reactor was destroyed by Israel in 09/07. Since then, Syria has been uncooperative with the IAEA in the UN's efforts to determine the extent of Syria's nuclear weapons development efforts.

Pakistan and India remain in competition with one another in the development of new nuclear weapons.

Israel is believed, according to open source materials, to have 200 or more nuclear weapons developed at its Negev Desert Dimona site.

The Obama Administration has not fulfilled this promise to stop the global development of new nuclear weapons.
The Promise: "...will lead a global effort to negotiate a verifiable treaty ending the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Homeland Security" dated 10/17/08.
Status:The United Nations recognized the need to control fissile materials as early as CY1957, so the prospect of establishing a "verifiable treaty" is nothing new.

Nine and perhaps 10 countries have produced fissile material (highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium) for nuclear weapons. These include the five nuclear weapon states as defined by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (USA, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China), India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and possibly Iran. Of these countries, the USA, United Kingdom, Russia, and France are no longer producing fissile material for weapons. Other states that would be affected by such a treaty are those that produce the greatest amount of fissile material for non-military purposes: Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Candidate Obama promised to lead the world in negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), cutting off future production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Before him, so did President Bill Clinton who tried in 1995, and President George W. Bush who tried in 2006. The Bush Administration wanted an ad hoc system of verification wherein states would monitor the compliance of other states through their own national intelligence mechanisms since it considered formal FMCT compliance verification impossible. This condition was not acceptable to many of the 65-member UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva and was reversed by the Obama Administration in 04/09.

On 04/05/09, President Obama proposed to negotiate "a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons," on the premise that verification of an FMCT is both desirable and do-able.

On 05/29/09, the UN CD agreed to establish an FMCT negotiating committee. However, Pakistan blocked the CD from implementing its agreed program of work, citing India's nuclear program as its principal concern. China and Iran also blocked the CD's agenda.

As of CY2011, the global availability of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) was estimated at 1,440 tons, sufficient to arm 60,000 nuclear fission weapons. The global stockpile of separated plutonium was estimated at 495 tons.

On 03/03/11, Ambassador Laura Kennedy, Permanent U.S. Representative to the UN CD in Geneva, stated in that 46 CD member and observer states had met in Geneva on 02/14-16/11 in what was billed as the first FMCT negotiation "side event" designed to discuss FMCT definitions for such terms as 'fissile material', 'production', 'produce', etc., emphasizing that "understanding the relationship between the definitions, verification regime, and the scope and architecture of an FMCT will be critical to the success of CD negotiations." Ambassador Kennedy further expressed U.S. hopes that the "CD soon can tackle the complex set of scientific, technical and diplomatic challenges associated with an FMCT in full negotiations which should begin...without further delay."

Initial progress was made toward promise fulfillment and it was originally graded as such. Realistically, given the common perception that the UN typically operates at a snail's pace, and given the fact that the UN has failed over the past decade to move forward on its core disarmament responsibilities, including curbs on the proliferation of fissile material, the FMCT has not been negotiated and its exact terms remain undefined as of early-CY2013.

On top of this, North Korea was incredibly appointed to chair the UN's Conference on Disarmament on 06/29/11. Really? The man/woman on the street throughout the free world asks: "Isn't this like asking a fox to guard a chicken coop? As the largest contributor to the UN mission, where was U.S. leadership when this decision was made?"

This promise was not fulfilled during President Obama's first term in office. If this changes during his second term, so will the grade.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will propose a new multilateral initiative to control existing fissile materials, under which nations will provide regular declarations of their fissile material holdings, secure their materials to the highest international standards of physical protection, declare increasing amounts of material as excess to defense needs and transform such excess materials to forms no longer useable in nuclear weapons as soon as practicable."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Strengthening Homeland Security" dated 10/17/08.
Status:This promise is not to be confused with Promise UN-14, which deals with the production of fissile materials. This promise pertains to the control of existing fissile materials.

The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C. ON 04/12-13/10 focused on how to better safeguard existing fissile materials, specifically weapons grade plutonium and uranium.

The Summit, attended by 47 nations/international entities, ended with a non-binding communique that did not specifically address the actions that need to be taken to control existing fissile materials.

Rather, broad statements were included in the communique such as "endeavor to fully implement all existing nuclear security commitments" and "support the implementation of strong nuclear security practices."

The communique issued at the end of the 03/26-27/12 Nuclear Security Summit in Soeul, Korea was similar to the communique issued after the CY2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit and was not specific about any real progress made by the participating nations other than "to make every possible effort to schieve further progress" in defined areas. The word "fissile" does not even appear in that communique.

As of early-CY2013, no concrete actions have been taken by any UN body that have resulted in effective international reporting, control, security and disposition of existing fissile materials.

This promise has not been fulfilled.