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Steve Clemons

Steve Clemons

Posted: April 12, 2010 06:55 PM

Biden Courts the Non-Aligned on Nukes

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Vice President Joe Biden has been quietly carrying the water on Tuesday's Nuclear Summit since Barack Obama got the keys to the White House.

The challenge of convincing major global stakeholders and other key non-aligned nations to work towards tighter nuclear materials controls and to cooperative arrangements to shut down nuclear trafficking is not a sexy topic except for those who think and breathe WMD stuff all the time.

However, after the release of the revised Nuclear Posture Review by the White House, the signing of a new US-Russia START Treaty, the convening of nations this week at a Nuclear Summit -- all leading to restored American engagement in a revitalized Non-Proliferation Treaty review process -- the media and many Americans are now taking stock of the considerable work that has been done behind the scenes.

And today, Vice President Biden may have helped push a new "global social contract" on global security and safety a bit further by hosting personally at his private residence a unique lunch with the presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers of twelve significant non-aligned nations.

Countries represented included Algeria, Chile, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice participated as did Biden National Security Adviser Antony Blinken.

The meeting today mostly focused on the NPT review conference to take place in May. Biden made the claim that this was a crucial moment and that global stakeholders will either reinvigorate the NPT or see it further unravel as it started to do in 2005 when Dick Cheney and John Bolton's acolytes were running the show.

From early reports, there was significant receptivity among the delegations represented -- even when it came to some tough talk discussion about strengthening verification and consequences for violations. One attendee reported to me that there was "a very positive and constructive atmosphere."

This is significant -- because some of the nations represented are among those that might be driven to either begin building their own fissile material production capacity, or to acquire WMDs of their own if they don't see a major correction to the eroding global commitment to non-proliferation.

The quid pro quo for support of these key non-aligned nations is not only general security for the global commons, but greater cooperation and more dependable protocols in sharing nuclear technology used for peaceful purposes.

As I write tomorrow in a lead op-ed for Politico, the combined efforts of the President and Vice President, the National Security Adviser, the Secretaries of Defense and State -- standouts like Obama national security confidante and NSC chief of staff Denis McDonough, OSD's Jim Miller, National Security Council Director for Defense Policy Barry Pavel, Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher, State Department Deputy Policy Planning Director Derek Chollet -- also the NSC's Gary Samore and Rexon Ryu -- really came together in a way that should be seriously modeled and studied to bring more strategic depth and success to other areas of the national security portfolio that are flagging. Israel/Palestine is a major case in point.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, according to one source, has worked at an "insane" rate to try and pull off this package of nuclear deals and posture statements. A source reports that he facilitated more than 30 Deputies meetings and 12 Principals meetings -- which is huge.

Some think that there is not much in this Summit. I totally disagree. It's the package, the sequencing, the strategic enmeshment of big states and smaller ones -- and the absence of national and personal ego that makes this so important.

This kind of institution building seems to me to be something for more potentially compelling to an Iran or North Korea than bilateral jabs in official speeches, sermons, or sanctions.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons

 

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