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Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Begins Monday - There is still time to sign the petition!

Monday May 3 will mark the beginning of the 8th Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, and 189 governments party to the treaty and hundreds of NGOs will flock to New York to discuss our world's greatest security concern - nuclear weapons. The stakes are high, with issues such as demands of disarmament and Iranian development of nuclear weapons topping the agenda. The last review conference, held five years ago, was such an abysmal failure that the pressure is strong on all parties to reach agreement on the many controversial issues.

Yesterday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the urgency of the Review Conference and some of the top considerations for the agenda. While stressing the importance of holding realistic expectations, Ban Ki-moon asserted that the opportunities presented by Review Conference must not fall by the wayside, especially on the topics of disarmament, non-proliferation, a nuclear weapons free-zone in the Middle East, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In particular, Ban Ki-moon focused on the need for a serious and thorough consideration of disarmament. "The Earth's very future leaves us no alternative but to pursue disarmament," he said. "And there is little prospect of that without global cooperation."

If the Review Conference does not address the issue of disarmament, it is sacrificing an opportunity to start taking the necessary steps to make the world safer. The very real possibility of nuclear terrorism - highlighted in President Obama's recent Security Summit- reinforces the widespread relevance of the issue and underscores the necessity of international cooperation. "Nuclear terrorism is not a Hollywood fantasy," wrote Ban Ki-Moon. "It can happen."

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference: Sign a Petition Calling on President Obama to Take Action

"I state with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." ~President Obama, Prague Nuclear Security Speech, April 2009

The existence of nuclear weapons remains the greatest threat to life on earth.  Sign the petition and call on President Obama to make good on the commitment he declared in Prague one year ago.  Call on President Obama to initiate talks on an international agreement to eliminate nuclear weapons. Call on President Obama to work with international leaders to abolish nuclear weapons – within our lifetimes.

You can be a part of the over 5 million signatures that will be delivered to the White House and the United Nations in early May to coincide with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York.  Click here to Sign the Petition Now.

In 1970, the NPT was created to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. But it is unequipped to deal with 21st century challenges, and the NPT alone cannot bring about a world free of nuclear weapons. The 8th Review Conference of the NPT (May 3-28, 2010) provides a key forum to initiate good faith talks on disarmament, and it is an opportunity for President Obama to publicly restate his commitment to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons must be eliminated to ensure a safer future for generations to come. Unite with more than five million voices and urge President Obama to begin multilateral talks on an international agreement to abolish nuclear weapons.

More on the 2010 NPT Review Conference:

Presidents Obama and Medvedev Sign Historic New START

President Obama signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) alongside Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Prague early Thursday morning, which proposes modest cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both countries. The 30% reductions required by the treaty will bring the number of nuclear weapons available to levels not seen since the 1960's. The signing ended more than a year of negotiations between the U.S. and Russia, and President Obama noted that New START has been an opportunity to "reset" relations between the two countries. This constitutes a diplomatic victory for President Obama, who hopes that the Senate will be receptive to the treaty. Still, some advocates insist that the cuts were not deep enough, and hope that priority will be given to securing further agreements on arsenal cutbacks with the Russians.

The treaty and accompanying protocols will be forwarded on to the State Department, where it will undergo an article-by-article analysis. Then it will be sent to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for hearings. There have been relatively few criticisms of the treaty's provisions, and it received bi-partisan support throughout the negotiation process. Still, the treaty is likely to face some trouble once it reaches Senate, where 67 votes are required for the Senate to pass its "advice and consent" on to the President for ratification. Republican roadblocks may lie ahead on the path to ratification, especially when it comes to the U.S. plans for missile defense and the modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Nuclear Posture Review sticks to the middle ground

Today the Obama administration released the much-anticipated Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), coinciding with the anniversary of President Obama's progressive Prague speech last April. Splitting with Bush-era nuclear doctrine, the NPR renounces the development of new nuclear weapons and states that the "fundamental purpose" of nuclear weapons is deterring other states from deploying them. The NPR is the beginning of a six week focus on nuclear issues, as President Obama signs New START on Thursday, hosts a Nuclear Security Summit in April, and the UN holds the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May.

Yet the NPR might be more of a status quo document than an expression of President Obama's Prague vision, as some advocates had hoped. Despite the its modest advances, there were early expectations that the language in the NPR would be bolder and suggest more concrete numbers for nuclear weapons reductions. The NPR's largely middle ground stance indicates some political signaling to Congress. The Obama administration's nuclear priority in Congress at the moment is to ratify the New START, which will require 67 votes in the Senate, including the votes of key Senate Republicans. More drastic changes to the NPR might have fueled conservative opposition to New START.

U.S. & Russia reach agreement for New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)

After more than eight months of talks between the U.S. and Russia, negotiators have reached agreement on the terms of the New START treaty, reported the Kremlin on Wednesday. The most comprehensive arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia in almost two decades, the treaty calls for reductions of more than one-quarter in the number of deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles in both countries.

New START replaces START I, the 1991 bilateral pact governing arms reduction that expired in December 2009. A new treaty was originally anticipated prior to the December expiration of START I, but disagreement over thorny issues such as the American missile defense system in Europe and the verification process for nuclear arsenals prevented the two parties from finding consensus. Officials from both countries have not disclosed detailed contents of the treaty nor have they discussed how these particular issues were ultimately resolved.

The date of the treaty's signing has yet to be determined, though early April seems likely. Prague is the tentative location for the signing in order to commemorate the one-year anniversary of President Obama's famed Prague speech on nuclear non-proliferation. If the signing ceremony takes place in early April, it will precede the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Obama in Washington on April 12-13.

However, some challenges to ratification are anticpated in the Senate, where 67 votes are needed to pass a resolution of ratification and provide "advice and consent" to the President. Some Republicans have stated that they do not intend to agree to a treaty that would restrict the planned missile defense shield for Europe. President Obama has already initiated discussions regarding ratification with Senate Committe on Foreign Relations Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and the committee's ranking minority member Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.).

Obama and Medvedev Discuss Arms Treaty

On Saturday, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev spoke for 30 minutes by telephone about "START" (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991 which expired in December).  The new treaty would reduce the active nuclear arsenals of both countries by more than one-quarter. It would require each side to reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads from 2,200 to roughly 1,600, and reduce strategic bombers and land- and sea-based missiles to below 800, down from the old limit of 1,600.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, who is responsible for leading the treaty through the Senate, said that the "administration administration is appropriately holding out for what we need to make the treaty verifiable and that will help it pass." John Kerry's counterpart, committee ranking Senate Republican Richard Lugar, remains hopeful that it will be signed and that there will be time assigned on the floor for debate and a vote this year, Lugar said he would support the treaty "unless there are extraordinary changes beyond those that I've heard about."

President Obama and President Medvedev tried to resolve remaining differences before forty-four nations arrive for the nuclear summit meeting in Washington DC in mid-April.   In a statement, the Kremlin said "It is now possible to talk about specific dates for the submission of the draft Start treaty for signing by the heads of state." White House spokesman, Mike Hammer, said the leaders "had a good conversation" about "the progress and consensus reached" in Geneva negotiations.  He added that the "results of their talks are encouraging, and both leaders are committed to concluding an agreement soon." While most of the substance has been settled for months, missile defense and verification have proved hard to resolve.

Vice President Biden Speaks About Increased Nuclear Budget and Test Ban Treaty

Vice President Biden spoke on February 18 at the National Defense University regarding the budget increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration as well as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  Increasing the budget for nuclear weapons seems as though the United States is directing policy contradictory to what President Obama had recommended for nuclear non-proliferation.  Yet in this speech, Vice President Biden sought to prove that these budget initiatives were in fact for both non-proliferation and American national security.

Vice President Biden echoed the sentiments of President Obama by showing that the United States can be a leader in non-proliferation while still maintaining a high level of security.  He reiterated this by defining the United States as a leader for a post nuclear world, but to reach this goal we still need a limited nuclear arsenal.  The Vice President explained that nuclear deterrence worked as a Cold War doctrine and retaining an arsenal will further deter our enemies.  Eventually through our leadership, new technologies will evolve bringing a new form of deterrence making nuclear weapons obsolete.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation, 18 Years Later

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970.  According to the United Nations, the organization responsible for the legislation, "the Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States."  Five of the states party to the treaty are considered nuclear weapon states: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.

However, the United States has been criticized on several occasions for violating the provisions of the treaty when negotiating arms sales with India, a recognized nuclear state that has refused to sign the NPT.  In 2008, President Obama stated that he wished to "strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don't comply will automatically face strong international sanctions."  Additional nuclear states that are noticeably absent from the list of signatures are Israel and Pakistan.  The treaty, set to be assessed every five years, will be reviewed in May of this year.

With regard specifically to negotiations between Russia and the United States regarding US-Russia nuclear relations, one successful treaty is the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT).  The goals of the legislation are to limit the number of warheads each state has within its nuclear arsenal.  The treaty, which expires in 2012, requires semi-annual negotiations of the provisions of the document.

Priorities, Priorities!

During President Obama's first State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, he focused on the upcoming economic challenges to be faced by the American people, as well as health care legislation and educational reform at all levels.  However, he also spoke about several issues that are key to the work of

Climate Change: Although President Obama focused primarily upon the need to improve the domestic job market and American economy, he stated that".to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives.  And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America."  He reaffirmed his dedication to climate change legislation, asserting that "the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation."

Prohibition of torture: He spoke of the threat of terrorism as well as the prohibition of torture in the same paragraph.  Through this gesture, he established a possible link between the need to balance the pursuit of terrorists and the remembrance of every individual's inherent human rights.

Nuclear non-proliferation: President Obama stated "the greatest danger to the American people - the threat of nuclear weapons." Emphasizing the importance of nuclear non-proliferation, he stated that one of his responsibilities as leader of the nation was reducing nuclear stockpiles.  Additionally, he described engaging internationally in nuclear weapons discussions at the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit to be held in April.

START Ends with US and Russia Close to a New Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty

The US and Russia pledge to have a new nuclear missile treaty worked out very soon. Negotiators from both countries say they are very close to completing a successor to the Cold War-era agreement that has cut both countries stockpiles of nuclear weapons, START. The current START treaty, created in 1991, expires at midnight tonight, amidst ongoing negotiations for a new treaty. Kremlin sources have been optimistic that some agreement can be made while President Obama is in Europe next week to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Washington has expressed hopes of having an interim agreement in place until a new treaty can come into effect if necessary.

The details of the new agreement have not been finalized, but Obama's National Security Advisor said both sides are "down to the last few paragraphs and sentences." After a new treaty agreement is announced, both countries must still ratify the treaty. This process could take up to months. Even if a treaty does not fully go into effect for months, both countries have indicated their willingness to uphold current nuclear arms arrangements until the new treaty is in place using a bridge agreement.

It is encouraging to hear that both nations are presenting the negotiation of a new nuclear arms treaty in such a positive light. The Cold War is long over, and these two Cold War superpowers recognize the importance of nuclear disarmament as a matter of international security more than ever. The sooner an agreement can be reached, the more legitimate Obama's ambitious strategy on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament becomes. Even though a new treaty will not be in place when the START treaty expires at midnight, the negotiation of an agreement, which most likely will have even deeper reductions in nuclear stockpiles than START is an accomplishment in itself.