On Wednesday, The American Security Project hosted Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Anita Friedt to discuss the State Department’s nuclear priorities. She was joined on the panel by ASP’s CEO Stephen Cheney and Nuclear Director Terri Lodge.
Friedt began her remarks by stressing patience, persistence, and a step-by-step approach to nuclear reductions. One of the most promising and rewarding tools to achieve disarmament has been New START, a treaty that both Lodge and Friedt worked on. Thanks to this treaty, by 2018 Russia and US nuclear arsenals will reach their lowest levels since 1950, improving global stability and security. Since its implementation, there have been 78 inspections and the Bilateral Consultative Commission has now met 5 times and will soon begin to exchange telemetry.
Also concerning Russia, Friedt confirmed that a new bilateral agreement on nuclear nonproliferation is in the works. Since the current Umbrella Agreement with Russia that formed the legal basis for the Critical Threat Reduction (CTR) efforts will expire in June 2013, Friedt believes there will be a new agreement that will most likely take a different form than the current one.
Regarding political obstacles in the ratification and formation of treaties, Friedt expressed a pragmatic and optimistic view. She cited the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as treaties that have faced both political obstacles both domestically and internationally. Both treaties, Friedt says, are the next steps in moving nonproliferation efforts forward.
In the cases of North Korea and Iran, Friedt reaffirmed that the U.S. goal is a diplomatic solution for both countries, which are deemed as international security threats due to their nuclear programs, but warned that the U.S. will protect itself and its allies.
Before a Q&A session, the topic of nuclear terrorism and vulnerable nuclear materials arose. This area has been of great concern to the U.S. and international community, but Friedt cites massive improvements in securing loose nuclear materials, specifically that Mexico and Ukraine have given up their highly enriched uranium.
Ultimately, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Friedt sees an optimistic future for nonproliferation and disarmament. She has seen Russia and other P5 countries beginning to not only cooperate more with U.S. led efforts, but even take the lead themselves on this frontier. While clearly security threats still exist, perhaps the main thing to take from her remarks is that nonproliferation and disarmament have come a long way and have made extensive progress, but there is still a long way to go.
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