Russia will be among the nations not participating in President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit, which is taking place Thursday and Friday. The White House characterized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s boycott of the summit as a direct result of his military aggression towards the Ukraine.
The New York Times reports that Putin is boycotting the summit because he does not want to be involved in a United States-dominated effort to secure the world’s nuclear materials. Russia possesses the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world.
One of the main goals of the four summits, the first of which Obama convened in 2009 shortly after taking office, is to put security measures in place that prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear materials.
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Regarding Russia’s absence from this year’s summit, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department’s top arms control official, said, “Frankly, we’re scratching our heads a bit.”
“The best thing I can say is it’s a mixed picture. There are areas of very sound cooperation with Russia, where we are proceeding and continuing to make progress,” Gottemoeller added.
White House national security council staff member Ben Rhodes characterized Russia’s absence as a “missed opportunity,” noting, “all they’re doing is isolating themselves in not participating.”
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In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday, Obama writes, “Given the continued threat posed by organizations such as the terrorist group we call ISIL, or ISIS, we’ll also join allies and partners in reviewing our counterterrorism efforts, to prevent the world’s most dangerous networks from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
The president also reports that the United States is:
…taking concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia remain on track to meet our New START Treaty obligations so that by 2018 the number of deployed American and Russian nuclear warheads will be at their lowest levels since the 1950s. Even as the United States maintains a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary and ensure the security of our allies, I’ve reduced the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.
I also have ruled out developing new nuclear warheads and narrowed the contingencies under which the United States would ever use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.
Given Russia’s aggressive moves towards the Ukraine and other regions in recent years, some may find the president’s touting of this achievement disconcerting. Russia maintains a significant advantage in tactical nuclear weapons over the United States, and Putin joked in December that he hoped that he would not have to fit its new cruise missiles, tested on the Syrian battlefield, with nuclear warheads.
The Obama administration can point to the Ukraine as a success story coming out of its nuclear security efforts. The New York Times reports, “On a bitterly cold day in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in March 2012, two years before Ukraine descended into crisis, a team of Americans and Ukrainians packed the last shipment of highly enriched uranium into railway cars, ridding the country of more than 500 pounds of nuclear fuel. It would have been enough to build eight or more nuclear bombs, depending on the skill and destructive ambitions of the bomb maker.”
Russia has been one of the main instigators of instability in the Ukraine for which it has been the subject of sanctions by the United States and the European Union. White House press secretary Josh Earnest stated earlier this week that Putin’s decision to boycott the Nuclear Security Summit is “yet another consequence” of his country’s military actions against the Ukraine.
h/t: The Washington Times
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