Nuclear arms control addressed at inaugural event of Institute for Security and Conflict Studies

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The Elliott School of International Affairs hosted the inaugural event for the new Institute for Security and Conflict Studies on Thursday night with a panel of experts who discussed the future of nuclear arms control and disarmament.

The event focused on the new institute’s goals, which look to promote scholarly research, to improve the public understanding of key international security issues, and to inform the development of national security policy.

Michael Brown, dean of the Elliott School, introduced the formal launch of the new Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at GW at the event.

“Why create an institute for security and conflict studies? It’s kind of self evident,” Brown said. “War and peace is one of the most important challenges facing the human race in the 20th century. You might not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

Ambassador of Algeria to the United States Abdallah Baali, president of the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review, said the governments who support non-proliferation have been in a crisis but with the help of the NPT, the non-proliferation movement will be made strong again.

“The non-proliferation regime has been in crisis for some time, in fact, it has been in crisis for some years. The good news is that we can fix it. The NPT is a treaty that states have to implement in good faith, and if they don’t we are in trouble,” Baali said.

Baali stressed the importance of states respecting the NPT and its three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

“The NPT is not a perfect instrument, but if the signatories accept and commit to the faithful implementation of this instrument, we’ll have better prospects,” Baali said about changing attitudes towards nuclear futures. “I see good prospects for 2010 because we’ve had good prepatory work. The United States has certainly shown the path, and the speech president Obama made at the UN on Oct 22 shows real progress.”

Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, the State Department’s coordinator for threat reduction programs, said President Obama’s recent speech in Prague revealed Obama’s initiative to secure all vulnerable material within four years.

Jenkins discussed reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security strategy and encouraging other countries to do the same, strengthening the non-proliferation treaty as a basis for cooperation amongst states, and insuring that terrorists never acquire nuclear weapons as the main goals of the President’s initiative.

Charles Glaser, director of the institute, said current threat conditions have gone so far as to make nuclear disarmament dangerous.

“In a world with all U.S. and Canada like relations, we could get rid of nuclear weapons,” Glaser said about the risk of disarmament when countries have an incentive to cheat. “It’s not feasible under current conditions, and most importantly, under the conditions which it would be possible, it wouldn’t be necessary.”

Although slightly skeptical of the outcome, Glaser seemed excited about the new policies.

“The good news is that much of the program that the Obama administration has advanced is worth furthering anyway. We should do many of these things anyway, and if any of these side benefits exist, we’re going to find out. These are all good policies to pursue, independently of going to zero,” Glaser said.

Unlike the rest of the panel’s belief in the efficiency of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in May of 2010, Glaser said that disarmament is not in the immediate future.

“[Disarmament is] only possible under rare specific conditions, and we’re far from them,” he said.

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