Experts Pre-Game before the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

By Alena M. James

On March 12, 2014, the “Future of Global Nuclear Security Policy Summit” was held at the Knight Broadcast Studio at the Newseum in Washington DC.  The summit was hosted by National Journal in preparation for the 2014 Nuclear Security being held in The Hague, Netherlands.  Participating in the event was White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control, Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall.  Contributing editor of the National Journal, James Kittfield, moderated the event posing questions to Dr. Sherwood-Randall and to a 7 member panel of nuclear security experts.

The experts participating in the summit included Norwegian Ambassador to the US, Kåre R. Aas; Renée Jones-Bos Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Professor,  Matthew Bunn;  Congressman, Jeff Fortenberry; President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Jane Harman; former US Senator, co-chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Sam Nunn; and William Tobey, Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The Summit opened with a welcome message from the Senior Vice President of  the National Journal Group Editor, Poppy MacDonald, and was followed by opening remarks from Senator Nunn; who outlined four primary principles that leaders attending the Hague summit should focus on to continue to secure nuclear materials around the globe.

“At the top of my list are four principles.

  1. Nuclear materials security is both a sovereign responsibility and a shared obligation.  Each nation’s security—as well as global security—is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and no single nation can present this threat alone.
  2. Accountability and assurances are essential.  It’s not sufficient to just declare, “Trust me.”
  3. Standards and best practices must be implemented by all states, and must cover all weapons-usable nuclear materials, including non-civilian.
  4. Our leaders must get serious about sustaining this focus and this effort, even if the Nuclear Summit process ends after 2016. If the IAEA is given this responsibility, it must be given the clear mandate and the resources to carry it out.”

Dr. Sherwood-Randall kicked off the summit discussion by providing keynote remarks in a moderated interview with Kittfield shortly after. During her interview, Dr. Sherwood-Randall made it clear that the purpose of the upcoming Nuclear Policy Summit would be to focus on the securing of nuclear materials and not on disarmament; where she believes there are other places for that topic to be discussed. Sherwood-Randall also acknowledged that NGOs play a critical role in providing intellectual capital and that there will be a Nuclear Knowledge Summit taking place in Amsterdam as a side event to the Nuclear Security Summit. This particular summit will be used as place to bring NGOs and nuclear security experts together. When asked about her thoughts on the role of Russia in nuclear security talks, Sherwood Randall said that she did not believe that the heightened tensions over the Ukrainian crisis would affect any of the arms control agreements held with Russia. She further noted that the US views Russia as “contributors” to the upcoming summit and is expecting “a constructive summit.”

According to Sherwood-Randall and to the members of the panel, The Nuclear Security Summit will include a variety of events to ensure the summit is constructive. These events include plenary sessions, prerecorded video speeches from leaders outlining their state’s goals, lively policy based discussions, and real-time crisis simulation. Jones-Bos and her fellow panelists believe the implementation of these events will help to actively engage all participants, more so than simply listening to long, boring speeches.

A video recording of the summit can be found here.

Photo by Alena M. James/ Caption: Nuclear Experts Panel (right to left): James Kittfield (moderator), Renée Jones-Bos, William Tobey, Ambassador Kåre R. Aas, Matthew Bunn, Representative Jeff Fortenberry, Sam Nunn, and Jane Harman.

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