About the Author: Ellen O. Tauscher is the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
On December 22, the United States Senate approved the New START Treaty, a mutually verifiable nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia. That bipartisan vote was the latest of the Obama Administration's many accomplishments this year to reduce global nuclear dangers and improve U.S. security.
The Senate approved the New START Treaty, which will establish lower limits on deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles, by a 71 to 26 vote. Once the Treaty enters into force, U.S. and Russian arms inspectors will resume their work that halted in late 2009 when the original START Treaty expired. Inspectors will be permitted to verify the actual number of warheads on a missile. The Treaty will build trust and enhance cooperation between the world's two largest nuclear powers as we move toward a world of mutual assured stability.
President Obama and President Medvedev signed this Treaty in April 2010, which was the beginning of a momentous two-month period in the Administration's efforts to reduce the danger posed by nuclear weapons.
Last Spring, President Obama issued a new Nuclear Posture Review and hosted nearly 50 world leaders in Washington, D.C., as part of the unprecedented Nuclear Security Summit to secure global stockpiles of fissile material and prevent nuclear terrorism. A few weeks later, the United States helped lead the world in bolstering the cornerstone of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), at a once-every-five-years review conference.
The new Nuclear Posture Review elevates stopping nuclear terrorism and proliferation to the top of the U.S. policy agenda, reduces the role and numbers of nuclear weapons in our defense posture, and ensures that we maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent. In this transformational document, President Obama put in place a new "Negative Security Assurance" to reinforce incentives for non-nuclear weapons countries to forgo developing such weapons. In doing so, the United States pledged not to use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.
At the Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama made substantial progress on his goal of securing all vulnerable fissile material by 2012. Every participating country announced steps to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists and traffickers. The international community recognized the conference to be such a success that a second gathering is scheduled to take place in South Korea in 2012.
At the NPT Review Conference, the United States worked with its allies and partners to reaffirm the world's commitment to the nonproliferation regime. For the first time in 10 years, the conference ended with a consensus outcome and an action plan to further strengthen the NPT.
The Obama Administration also succeeded in strengthening our relationships with our allies and other partners. The Senate approved the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaties with the United Kingdom and Australia, improving our defense ties with those important allies. We achieved a key goal of our European Phased Adaptive Approach when our 27 NATO allies agreed for the first time to pursue missile defense protection for all NATO European territories. And we made progress with Russia in turning missile defense from an issue of contention to one of cooperation.
More broadly, we continued to work at the 65-member Conference on Disarmament toward launching negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) to end the production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons.
There is more work ahead of us. The United States will seek further nuclear reductions with Russia, including on non-deployed and non-strategic nuclear weapons. Our "to do" list also includes pursuing ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to end nuclear testing, negotiating an FMCT, and following through on the action plans from both the NPT Review Conference and the Nuclear Security Summit. And the Obama Administration will take steps to address chemical, biological, missile, and conventional weapons threats.
Working with Congress and our allies and partners abroad, President Obama has taken the concrete steps necessary to make the world a safer and more secure place. While that goal is a work in progress, I am proud of the progress we made this year and look forward to building on our momentum in 2011.