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Obama’s nuke summit advances his international role

By STEPHAN COLLINSON
April 14, 2010

In two weeks of concentrated and personal nuclear diplomacy, Barack Obama has made a start on the statesman’s resume envisioned by those with great hopes for his presidency.

When Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, many analysts, observers and American voters shared a common question, “Why?”

The young president was praised as an orator and peddler of lofty goals, but by year’s end, critics began to sniff at a paucity of foreign policy achievements.

But in recent days, Obama flexed American power with a new disarmament treaty with Russia, and reset US nuclear policy.

Then he coaxed most of the world’s top leaders to the first-ever nuclear security summit in Washington — the biggest global meeting hosted by a US leader for six decades.

The powers agreed to safeguard nuclear material against predatory terrorists within four years, and reflected two strands of Obama foreign policy.

One of the president’s first acts abroad was a speech from the ramparts of Prague Castle a year ago, conjuring a dream of a nuclear-free world — which did much to inspire the Nobel committee.

Second, the administration has long argued that Obama’s engagement of powers soured on American leadership during the George W. Bush administration would pay dividends.

They argued Tuesday that Obama’s outreach was beginning to work.

“We think we have been able to bring in, in this summit, the whole world,” said Gary Samore, a top administration arms control official.

The summit ended with few binding pledges, Obama argued the world had committed as never before to tackle what he styled as the gravest security threat.

“Today is a testament to what is possible when nations come together,” said Obama.

Reginald Dale, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has been a critic of Obama’s European diplomacy, allowed that the president’s summit had been, on a public relations front at least, a success.

“It looks good that he has been able to get all those leaders — it was a success that he was able to get President Hu Jintao of China, to come at a time when the relationship has been a little dodgy.”

Obama’s diplomatic evolution has been noticed by foreign leaders not known for doling out praise.

“I am tremendously pleased that President Obama has organized this conference,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“It adds a whole new dimension to the debate about disarmament. It’s a remarkable event.”

Merkel is known in the White House as one of the foreign leaders Obama respects most.

The summit was a typical Obama production.

Often the president swings hard at visionary and historic goals, leaving critics to complain of hubris and skeptics to point out that he has not yet changed the world in a year in office.

But if world powers truly begin to work together to safeguard fissile material, Obama’s big thinking approach will win plaudits.

The sessions also featured another presidential trait, discussions led by the professorial Obama in a collegial, atmosphere, with reporters excluded.

The president’s painstaking diplomacy with China meanwhile, mocked as kowtowing during a visit to Beijing last year, may be bearing fruit, after a stormy period in Sino-US relations.

China seems to be slowly moving towards a new UN sanctions regime to punish Iran, after talks between Obama and Hu here.

A flurry of bilateral meetings showcased Obama as an evolving world leader, forging personal ties with world leaders at a time when his health care reform triumph has infused his leadership with new confidence at home.

Obama aides had previously scoffed at Bush for putting chummy personal connections with foreign leaders above substance.

But Obama aides now highlight a growing trust or rapport between Obama and China’s Hu, and with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

But some caution might be in order.

Even the president, as aides proclaimed success, wearied by the slog of diplomacy, as he discussed the defiance of Iran and North Korea.

“As I said, sanctions are not a magic wand. Unfortunately, nothing in international relations is.”

The China problem is also not over. Beijing’s position is still hard to pin down on Iran sanctions, and weeks of tough negotiating lay ahead at the UN.

Deadlines have also proven problematic for Obama — on health care reform and closing Guantanamo Bay — and it is not clear he can close the deal and get the sanctions agreed in the UN Security Council by his “spring” target.

And while the new START treaty with Russia was widely praised, some analysts have termed it “low hanging fruit” and less significant that some of other foreign policy challenges.

Included on that list is the Middle East impasse and the failed outreach towards US foes like Iran and Cuba.

Copyright © 2010 AFP

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7 Responses to Obama’s nuke summit advances his international role

  1. Mightymo

    April 14, 2010 at 10:58 am

    By now bush would have been on vacation for at least 70 days, and he wouldn’t have accomplished much more than scratching his arse raw.

    I suppose if we concider that, it’s no wonder that Obama has so many choices of important things to accomplish, and has been so succesful at “rebuilding” the American image overseas.

    Unlike bush, I think Obama can afford to take a well deserved family vacation for a week.

  2. woody188

    April 15, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Wonder why no one points out the United States is in violation of the NPT by developing ‘mini-nukes’.

  3. Carl Nemo

    April 15, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Thanks Woody188 for the heads up concerning the development of mini-nukes.

    The way we’ve gotten around this is to stick to a nominal 5 kt (kiloton) bunker buster design the B61-11 which has been refined since it’s emergence as a concept. The problem is that original designs were only able to penetrate to depths of 20ft prior to detonation whereas newer versions act like a shaped charge delivering most of its released energy downward due to improved earth penetration and detonation characteristics. The way its achieved is by having the delivery system achieve a very high altitude then accelerated downward into the target driving the physically hardened warhead into the ground very deeply prior to detonation.

    http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/mininukes.cfm#_ftn4

    Carl Nemo **==

    • woody188

      April 15, 2010 at 1:55 am

      The article is kind of old, 2002. I can say with certainty that since then the United States has developed ‘mini-nukes’ that can be deployed/launched/detonated by ground forces.

      • Carl Nemo

        April 15, 2010 at 2:01 am

        Hi Woody188,

        You are correct the article is old, but I’ve tried to pass on a non-classified overview of the state of mini-nukes to date via my commentary. The point being we didnt’ stop at the limitations of the B61-11 and have not violated the intent of the ’93’ treaty in terms of developing weps below the 5kt threshold. Besides, whats’ the point? Below 5kt’s you’ve moved into the zone of questionable efficiency relative to the mission.

        You can do some data mining and come up with more info on this subject.

        Attache’ case sized nuke delivery systems are an entirely different subject. :D

        Carl Nemo **==

        • Carl Nemo

          April 15, 2010 at 2:09 am

          Hi Woody et al. …

          I thought I’d supply a Wiki link showing some photo’s of the B61 nuke. Actually it’s quite beautiful in its design regardless of the ugly consequences relative to its delivery.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B61_nuclear_bomb

          People have to ponder the destructive force of simply 5,000 tons of TNT delivered to their doorstep via one of these weps…! / : |

          You are in a bunker several hundred feet underground and this puppy goes off within 50ft. It’s hasta la vista babeeee!

          Carl Nemo **==