In his 2009 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama committed the United States to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons:
“The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. ... And as ... the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.”
Since then, the United States and its partners have taken a number of significant steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons, including the two agreements between the United States and Russia, the New START Treaty and the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement or PMDA. The PMDA will result in the disposal of enough weapons-grade plutonium for many thousands of nuclear weapons. Both agreements entered into force in 2011.
The next important step in nuclear disarmament and which would contribute to further curbing nuclear proliferation, is a multilateral agreement to cease all production of fissile materials needed to manufacture nuclear weapons.
“A verifiable end to the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons is necessary if we are to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller in her opening statement before the January 2012 Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.
A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, or FMCT, is a core element of the President’s Prague initiative, yet significant obstacles to beginning negotiations remain in the Conference on Disarmament, which was established by the international community to negotiate multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements.
Despite our expressed frustrations with the CD’s inaction, the United States maintains its strong preference to negotiate within the Conference on Disarmament. The principal five nuclear powers, Great Britain, France, China, Russia, and the U.S., as key players in an eventual FMCT, have met numerous times to discuss how to break the long impasse in the Conference on Disarmament, so that serious work can begin there on the FMCT.
“If the Conference on Disarmament fails to deliver a Fissile Material Cut off Treaty negotiation this year, we will again have shirked our responsibility to move forward towards a world without nuclear weapons,” said Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller. “Every nation should share in the work that will create the conditions necessary to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world.”