By Graham Allison
On Monday, President Obama will join Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and 40 other heads of state in the Netherlands for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. It will be the third in a series of summits initiated by Obama to address what he has called “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”: nuclear terrorism. These gatherings have become a powerful means of motivating leaders to eliminate or secure the fissile material that terrorists could use to carry out a nuclear 9/11.
Thanks to the priority Obama and others have given this threat, and the work they have done to combat it, in just the last five years, the number of states with nuclear-weapons material that could fuel a terrorist’s bomb has shrunk by more than one-third: from 38 to 25. These efforts are creating the counterterrorism counterpart of the UN’s long-established nuclear-weapons-free zones (NWFZ), which ban the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons. The 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, for example, enshrines the commitment of all states in South America and the Caribbean to no nuclear weapons. Each of the members is safer knowing that others in its neighborhood have forgone nuclear weapons as well....
Graham Allison is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and the author of "Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe."