We Need a Global Attack on Nuclear Proliferation


The time has come to prevent the nightmare scenario of a nuclear attack. The rhetoric of international leaders about the spread of nuclear weapons and materials has not been matched by enough concrete action, even as Osama bin Laden declares that it is his “religious duty” to acquire and use a nuclear weapon against the West.

When the G-8 leaders meet Tuesday in Sea Island, Ga., we urge them to put aside their differences over Iraq and unite to implement a comprehensive nonproliferation strategy that includes concrete steps and increased financial commitments to control the spread of bomb-making materials and thwart the ambitions of those who would acquire them.

First, the G-8 nations -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States -- must fulfill their pledge to raise $20 billion to fund the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. Still $3 billion short, this important effort helps Russia and other countries safely store and dispose of chemical and nuclear weapon materials.


Even if the pledges were fulfilled, there still would not be enough money to get the job done. Securing the nuclear legacy of Russia alone will cost $30 billion, and there are other stockpiles of inadequately secured highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium around the world.

Presidents Bush and Vladimir V. Putin have launched a program designed to secure fissile materials around the world. But their plan will take 10 years to complete, during which time terrorists will still be able to collect fissile materials for a bomb.

Our second recommendation therefore is that the G-8 should commit to a far more aggressive timetable -- within the next four or five years -- for completing this important work.

Third, the G-8 nations must bring to bear all the incentives and sanctions they have at their disposal to stop proliferation. This includes closing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty loophole that enables states like North Korea to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of programs to produce nuclear energy.

Fourth, the G-8 leaders should pledge themselves to active, person-to-person diplomacy that can help reduce the regional tensions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. For example, the scaling back of the nuclear threat between India and Pakistan may have opened the door to further steps to reduce the risks of a nuclear exchange.

Fifth, the leaders must commit their nations to develop and maintain a global network linking intelligence and export control efforts with border, port and airport security to ensure that nuclear materials and technology cannot be moved undetected.


Finally, although France, Russia, Britain and the United States have taken good steps to reduce their nuclear arsenals, more must be done. A failure in this regard would encourage states that do not have nuclear weapons to rebel against nonproliferation norms out of dissatisfaction with what they perceive to be a double standard: Some states get nuclear weapons, while others do not. We call on President Bush and the United States, therefore, to stop developing new nuclear weapons such as the so-called bunker buster. The United States should also sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Together, the United States and Britain should support a fissile materials cutoff treaty that would end the production of fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons.

Given their nuclear weapons capacities, the U.S. and European countries have a special responsibility to ensure that these terrible weapons do not spread further. Before they can fulfill this responsibility, however, they must be seen as credible proponents of nuclear nonproliferation.

The steps described here would help restore credibility to the calls for global nuclear nonproliferation, and enable the U.S. and Europe to exercise the leadership that is so desperately needed to fight proliferation.

Imagine the G-8 meeting that would follow a nuclear incident. The leaders of the industrialized world would be compelled to explain how such a terrible tragedy could have happened. It is their challenge -- and responsibility -- to take the necessary steps now to protect us all.


Madeleine Albright was secretary of State under President Clinton. Robin Cook was foreign secretary of Britain and is a member of Parliament.