Buskirk and Toma: Making America Safer from Nuclear Terrorism

By Major General George A Buskirk ; Alexandra Toma | Roll Call, April 10, 2013 | Go to article overview

Buskirk and Toma: Making America Safer from Nuclear Terrorism


Major General George A Buskirk ; Alexandra Toma, Roll Call


Three years ago this week, President Barack Obama signed the New START treaty with Russia.

The stroke of a pen ended the lull in inspections of Russia"s nuclear stockpile and allowed the U.S. and Russia to start eliminating excess Cold War nuclear capabilities in a mutual, verifiable way.

Reflective of its name, the treaty was a new start in a much more aggressive global effort to decrease the modern risk posed by nuclear weapons: preventing terrorists from acquiring a nuclear weapon, a commitment shared by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, as well as national security officials from both political parties. So just what more can we do to keep America and her allies safe from the modern threat posed by nuclear terrorism?

While the threat of a nuclear war has plummeted since the end of the Cold War, the risk posed by the spread of nuclear materials has risen. Two thousand cases of illicit or unauthorized trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material have occurred in the past two decades. In fact, just last year seven people were arrested in Moldova carrying AK-47"s, hand grenades, and uranium that could be used to produce a nuclear bomb. There is a growing and continued black market demand for these materials - bold new thinking and political will is needed to combat this distinctly 21st century nuclear risk.

It is clear terrorists are trying to get "the bomb.' Interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qaida operative who planned the September 11th terrorist attacks, revealed al-Qaida hoped to unleash a "nuclear hellstorm' if Osama bin Laden was killed. Bin Laden himself previously stated that he considered it a religious obligation to obtain nuclear weapons. If al-Qaida does obtain a nuclear weapon, there is little doubt they will use it. Of course, obtaining a nuclear weapon is a relatively difficult task. Unfortunately (and scarily), obtaining the materials to build one isn"t.

Fortunately, President Obama is a man that puts his money where his mouth is: He negotiated and secured the ratification of New START; his Nuclear Posture Review formalized his famous 2010 Prague speech goals as U. …

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