Press Briefing to Preview The Nuclear Security Summit by Gary Samore, White House Coordinator for WMD Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications
11:08 A.M. EDT
MR. HAMMER: Hello. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Today we have with us Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, who will kick off a brief introduction of what is coming up this exciting week. And then he will be followed by Gary Samore, who’s actually the sherpa for the Nuclear Security Summit and will walk through the specifics of the schedule and some of the issues that we expect will be coming up. So with that, let me just turn it over to Ben. Go ahead, Ben.
MR. RHODES: Great. Thanks, everybody, and thanks for joining the call. We’re actually flying back from Prague where we -- the President signed the new START treaty with President Medvedev. So if my connection is not good, I apologize for that, and if I fall off, my colleagues are more than capable of going forward. But I do want to say a few words about the summit before we get into the schedule and then turn it over to Gary Samore, who can walk you through the summit, and then we’ll move to your questions.
The first thing I’d just say is that the summit is dedicated to nuclear security and the threat of nuclear terrorism. And I think that it is absolutely fundamental to view this summit with the starting point of the grave nature of the threat of nuclear terrorism. We know that terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, are pursuing the materials to build a nuclear weapon, and we know that they have the intent to use one. This of course would be a catastrophic danger to American national security and to global security were they able to carry out that kind of attack.
To that end, there is a substantial amount of vulnerable nuclear material around the world and some of my colleagues can speak to the specifics of that threat later in the call. And that’s why President Obama, frankly, focused on this issue from when he came into the United States Senate; it was a focus of his national security platform in his campaign; and then one year ago in Prague, as a part of his comprehensive nuclear non-proliferation and security agenda, he laid out his aim to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world within four years.
As a part of that effort, he said he would host a global summit to rally the collective action that is necessary to achieve that goal. Obviously no one nation is capable of taking the actions necessary to secure vulnerable nuclear materials that are in many different countries and in many different regions of the world. Similarly, no one nation is capable of pursuing the kind of nuclear security measures that can prevent the transit, illicit transit, of those types of materials.
So this is an unprecedented gathering of nations to address this issue. It’s unprecedented given the fact that nuclear security has not been addressed by this many nations at this level before. It’s also the largest gathering of countries hosted by an American President dedicated to a specific issue like this in many decades, since the conference in San Francisco around the United Nations. And again, I think that underscores the seriousness of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism.
And also we believe that there are specific steps that can be taken to achieve this goal; that it is possible for nations to take actions to secure vulnerable nuclear materials. So the summit is intended to rally collective action behind the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years.
Underneath that collective action, of course, different countries will need to make specific commitments of their own because this kind of challenge, as Gary can speak to, is different for each country. But coming out of the summit we expect there to be, again, this collective commitment to pursue this goal, as well as a number of specific actions that will be announced in the -- over the course of the next several days by individual countries.
And the goal here is to, again, achieve agreement behind a plan of action, to initiate specific commitments from countries, and also to provide momentum going forward so that this goal can be achieved. And we believe this summit is the beginning of what will be a very aggressive and international effort that speaks to President Obama’s focus on nuclear security as a top national security priority and also speaks to his strong commitment to multilateral cooperation to achieve important goals.
And the only other thing I’d say is that this is also of course connected a broader nuclear non-proliferation and security agenda. Earlier this week we put forward a new Nuclear Posture Review that puts non-proliferation and nuclear terrorism at the center of America's strategy to further strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty by isolating those nations, non-nuclear states that are not in compliance with their international obligations.
We signed yesterday in Prague the new START treaty which reduces the deployed nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles of the United States and Russia, and reaffirmed the strong leadership of the United States and Russia, as the two nations with 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, to both keep their commitment under the NPT and to demonstrate responsible leadership on nuclear issues.
All of these we believe -- all of these nuclear actions reinforce one another. We believe that they strengthen international cooperation in this critical area. We believe that they, again, incentivize nations to cooperate and to live up to their obligations, while isolating those who don't; and that ultimately they do a great deal to enhance the security not just of the United States but of the world.
With that, I'll start moving into the schedule. I'll just work through what the President is planning -- his day on Monday, and then turn it over to Gary, who can take you through the schedule of the actual summit and explain the purpose of the different sessions.
I'm going to start by saying that I’ll be -- I'm going to work through the bilateral meetings that the President currently has scheduled. It’s certainly -- at these kinds of occasions, there will be many opportunities for the President to interact on a bilateral basis with his fellow leaders. So in addition to the opportunities that will come at meals and sessions, we expect there to be potential for additional bilateral contacts between the President and his colleagues.
So we will let you know as those take shape and if anything else is scheduled. So I will just be speaking to those meetings that are currently on the schedule.
On Sunday, the 11th, the President will hold a series of meetings at the Blair House. It will begin with a meeting with Prime Minister Singh of India. Obviously the President developed a close working relationship with Prime Minister Singh, who visited the United States for a State Dinner and working visit last year. And we expect, again, to have a dialogue with the Indians, a continuing dialogue on a range of issues that we’re working with them together on.
The President will then have a meeting with President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is an important country as it relates to nuclear security and is a partner with the United States on a range of issues. And the President looks forward to hosting this bilateral meeting with President Nazarbayev.
The President will then have a bilateral meeting with President Zuma of South Africa. The President has met with President Zuma in several multilateral forums and we’ve cooperated with South Africa on a range of issues. Obviously South Africa has been an important nation as it relates to non-proliferation -- forsaking a nuclear weapons program in the past. And they’re also an important partner for the United States on a range of issues that the two Presidents will be able to discuss.
And then the President will be hosting a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan. The United States and Pakistan have a deepening partnership on a range of issues, and the President looks forward to this opportunity to continue strengthening that partnership during discussions with Prime Minister Gilani.
Then the President will then be able to have a courtesy call that we’ve scheduled with President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. Nigeria, of course, also being a critical leader in Africa and partner for the United States on a range of issues, so they’ll be able to have a courtesy call together to discuss several of those issues.
The next day, on Monday, the President will hold a series of bilateral meetings at the convention center, where the summit will be hosted. The first of those meetings with be with King Abdullah of Jordan. The President and King Abdullah have had a close working relationship for a number of years, dating back to even before the President was elected, when he was able to visit with the King in Amman. The President has been looking forward to an opportunity to host King Abdullah to discuss, again, a range of issues on which we cooperate with -- (connection drops) --
MR. HAMMER: Well, Ben, you may have dropped off -- Ben? One second, folks, we’ll see if we can get him right back on -- one moment.
OPERATOR: This is the operator. I do still show him connected though.
MR. HAMMER: Okay. We can’t hear him; hopefully he can hear us. One moment -- we’ll wait for just another moment and if Ben is unable to rejoin, then we’ll proceed with Gary Samore to walk you through the schedule of the actual summit. Just one moment.
OPERATOR: And his line has officially dropped. We’ll watch and see if he dials back in.
MR. HAMMER: Well, I’ll go through -- this is Mike Hammer -- we’ll go through the remaining bilaterals. So Ben mentioned with King Abdullah of Jordan.
Following that, there will be a bilateral with Prime Minister Mohamed Najib Abdul Razak and we -- from Malaysia. And that’s an important meeting -- the President has not had an occasion to meet with him -- will be discussing a number of important issues. As a majority-Muslim country, we think this will be an important meeting in terms of the overall agenda the President has in terms of engagement with the Muslim communities around the world.
Following that, we will have -- the President will have a meeting with President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia. Again, there’s a very important bilateral relationship that the United States has with Armenia and their issues relating to the protocols that we’re trying to encourage in terms of normalization between Armenia and Turkey.
Following that, the President will have an opportunity to have another bilateral meeting with President Hu Jintao of China. I think we’re all quite familiar with the extensive relationship that the United States enjoys with China. So we can expect a number of important bilateral issues to come up during that meeting.
And finally, proceeding then to Tuesday -- that would be the final meeting for -- bilateral that we have scheduled. Actually, I think that one is not quite set as I see it on my schedule. So I think we’ve covered now the bilateral meetings and then we will now just turn it over to Gary Samore, who will go through the actual schedule of the summit and discuss the substance of the issues that will be presented during those sessions.
MR. SAMORE: Thanks, Mike. Well, I’m going to talk about the summit itself and what we hope to achieve. Now Ben has already given you a good sense of the overall goals of the Nuclear Security Summit and how the summit sits in the President’s broader nuclear agenda, including arms control and non-proliferation, as well as peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
As Ben said, the Nuclear Security Summit is focused on a very specific issue of securing nuclear materials and cooperating to prevent nuclear smuggling in order to reduce as much as possible the threat that terrorist groups or criminal gangs get their hands on nuclear materials that can be used for nuclear weapons. And that really focuses on separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium. Those are the two materials that can be used for nuclear explosives. And if we’re able to lock those down and deny them to non-state actors, then we have essentially solved the risk of nuclear terrorism.
So in terms of the actual agenda and structure of the summit, after the President finishes his bilaterals on Monday, April 12th, there will be a welcoming ceremony at the Washington Convention Center starting at 5:00 p.m. And the President will individually greet each of the delegations that are coming to the summit.
As Ben mentioned, this is really unprecedented collection of countries who’ve come together to talk about the nuclear security issue. There will be a total of 47 countries. Thirty-eight of those countries will be represented at the head of state or head of government level -- kings, presidents, and prime ministers. Nine of those 47 countries will be represented by deputy prime ministers, vice presidents, or foreign and defense ministers. So that’s a total of 47 countries. This is by far the largest international gathering to talk about nuclear security issues.
We also have three heads from international organizations. Ban Ki-moon will be there, the Secretary General of the U.N.; Doctor Amano, the head of the IAEA; and the President of the European Council, Van Rompuy, will be there. So we’ll have 50 at the table.
After the welcoming ceremony, there will be a very important kickoff working dinner, which will be chaired by President Obama and the other 49 heads of delegation. The focus of this opening dinner is on the threat and the magnitude of the threat. And I think this is a really critical component of the summit, because there are a wide range of views about how serious the threat is. And I think this summit and the meetings that have led up to it have really helped to consolidate a view which President Obama advocates, that the threat of nuclear terrorism is a very serious threat.
As Ben said, there are groups out there that clearly would like to acquire the raw materials for nuclear weapons, and if they were to acquire those materials there’s a very high risk that they would use them. And there’s a large quantity of nuclear material in the world, some of which needs to be protected and secured at much higher levels.
So I think that dinner is going to set the stage for the next day of discussions on measures that can be taken in order to reduce the risk and to defeat the threat.
So on Tuesday, April 13th, the President will be chairing all day long plenary sessions and a lunch that will focus on how to respond to the threat. In the morning, a plenary session which goes from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The focus will be on national actions that countries can take to secure nuclear material that is under their control and to deal with the risk of nuclear smuggling within their territory.
The important thing here to recognize is that for the most part the primary responsibility for securing nuclear materials, whether in the civil or the military sector, rests with individual countries. And we expect that in these sessions countries will talk about the steps that they're taking to make sure that they have adequate security over the nuclear materials in their possession; talk about the measures they’re taking to construct a regulatory and a legal structure to make sure that there’s adequate supervision of their nuclear holdings and their nuclear industry. Much of the nuclear materials that are potentially vulnerable or could be used for nuclear weapons are actually in the hands of private industry, so government regulation is a very important component, as well as measures that countries will take so that they have a strong legal system to take action against any individuals who are involved in nuclear smuggling.
We expect in that morning session some countries will announce steps that they are taking to either remove the presence of some nuclear materials on their territory or to consolidate them to protect them better, and to minimize the use in the civil sector, for example, by converting reactors from using highly enriched uranium to using low enriched uranium fuel.
Then there will be a lunch session with the heads of delegations. And that will focus on the role of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in the nuclear security area. The IAEA plays a critical role and it’s one that is relatively new to the agency’s responsibility. The role of the agency is to provide assistance, to provide guidelines for what is considered to be adequate physical protection for holding the nuclear materials, and as well as to provide technical assistance to countries to help achieve those. So I think it’s very important that we try to endorse and strengthen the role of the IAEA in this area.
Oh, I forgot to mention -- excuse me for going back -- on Monday evening, at the same time that President Obama is hosting a meeting for the heads of delegations, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Chu will be hosting their own dinner for the foreign ministers and the nuclear officials who will be at the summit. So we’ll have two very important simultaneous meetings taking place.
And the same thing is true at lunch -- while the President is hosting a working lunch with the heads of delegations, Secretary Clinton and Secretary Chu will be hosting a lunch for their counterparts at the meeting. And they -- I think they will be having some important members of Congress at that lunch, including Senator Lugar, who of course has been instrumental in leading the way, going back more than 15 years to highlight the threat of nuclear terrorism and the need to ensure adequate nuclear security.
After the lunch there will be an afternoon plenary chaired by President Obama from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The focus there will be on the international measures that countries can take to strengthen the international system for dealing with nuclear security. That includes two international conventions -- the International Convention for the Protection of Nuclear Materials, which has just been revised under U.S. leadership and where we will be advocating that countries bring into force, improve those amendments to strengthen physical protection. There’s a second convention called the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. That was finished in 2005; it’s not yet come into force because additional countries need to sign and ratify it. And again, that will be a session for countries to talk about their efforts to take those steps.
There will also be discussion about some of the like-minded efforts that are in place, including the G8 Global Partnership, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 -- there’s a whole range of instruments out there on the international front and that afternoon plenary will be focusing on strengthening those measures.
The President will then have a press conference and we will issue the work -- the summit communiqué and then there will be a closing reception.
Let me talk then a little bit about what will be the main areas of outcome from the summit, and there are really three. I won't go into too much detail because we’ll save some of that for Tuesday.
But first there will be a high-level communiqué from the leaders which will recognize that nuclear terrorism is a serious threat; which will endorse President Obama’s effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials over a four-year period; and will pledge in a general way steps that countries can take on both a national and an international level in order to strengthen nuclear security and prevent terrorists or criminal groups from getting access to materials for nuclear weapons.
Underlining the communiqué there’s a more detailed work plan which all the countries have agreed to, and that lays out in more specific detail the concrete commitments that countries will take on a national and an international level to strengthen security. And I discussed earlier the kinds of steps that countries could take both nationally as well as internationally.
And, finally, there will be a number of national actions that countries will announce in the context of the summit. As is already public, it will be things like Chile, which has removed all of the low-enriched uranium -- or all of the highly-enriched uranium from their country. We expect similar kinds of measures will be announced.
Another example is the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Disposition Agreement, where the U.S. and Russia have both agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons each of weapons-grade plutonium that has been removed from our military programs by burning it in reactors. This is an agreement which is very significant in the sense that over a period of a decade or so it will remove very large quantities of weapons-useable materials, and also it’s an agreement that's been long stalled. And when I was in the Clinton administration we actually finished the negotiations and announced the completion of the agreement in 2000, but it’s been over a decade to actually reach agreement on the implementing measures and it was really President Obama’s focus on this issue and the reset of his relationship with Russia that has finally been able to finalize this agreement. And it will be signed on Monday by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and will be one of the kinds of concrete measures that will come out of this summit.
Now, of course, there is still a great deal of things that need to be done in terms of implementing the various commitments that will be made coming out of the summit and additional national actions that countries can take. So we’re planning that the summit will be the first to set in motion a series of follow-up actions, including meetings of the sherpas every six months or so in order to judge progress in implementing the work plan and to take whatever additional measures are necessary. And we expect that in the future there will be at least one more summit meeting and we hope perhaps others that, at the leadership level, will be used to announce additional steps and serve to focus attention on action that needs to be taken in order to fulfill the President’s four-year lockdown plan.
I’ll stop there and would be happy to answer any questions.
MR. HAMMER: Right. I’m just double-checking -- Ben, are you back on?
OPERATOR: He has reconnected and -- he just reconnected again.
MR. HAMMER: Right. Can you talk, Ben, to see if we can hear you?
MR. RHODES: Yes.
MR. HAMMER: Okay, super.
MR. RHODES: Can you hear me?
MR. HAMMER: Yes, we can. Operator, if you can just please now turn it over to questions, please.
OPERATOR: Thank you.
Q Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to conduct this conference call with us. I wanted to ask you what your understanding is of the reason that Israeli President [sic] Benjamin Netanyahu has decided not to come to the summit? And also I wanted to ask you, what’s a sherpa -- what’s the role of the sherpas? Thank you.
MR. RHODES: Thanks for the question, Josh. On the first point, I feel -- I think that the Israelis have read out the reasons for which Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided that he won’t be able to attend the summit. They’ve been in close consultations with us about that decision and we appreciated those consultations.
They are sending their deputy prime minister to head their delegation. He is the person within the Israeli government with responsibility for the issues that will be discussed at the summit -- nuclear security issues. So we believe that Israel will be represented by a very effective delegation that will be quite capable of joining with the other 46 nations in pursuing the kind of actions that are necessary to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.
On the second question, I’ll turn it over to Gary. I’ll first say that efforts of -- international efforts of these kinds often have sherpas. Many of you know Mike Froman as our sherpa to the G20 and to the -- to several other international efforts. But Gary is our sherpa in this instance so I’ll let him describe his role.
MR. SAMORE: Well, sherpa is obviously a term borrowed from the world of mountaineering and the sherpas are the people that lead the way to the summit and make sure that it’s safe for the important people who are in the climbing team. And as Ben said, a sherpa is an institution which is commonly used in these big international meetings -- G8 and G20 meetings.
So our job was to meet, to prepare the documents for the summit. We’ve had three sherpa meetings and a number of meetings of the sous-sherpas who get into the real details. And we have also, in addition to preparing the documents that will be issued at the summit, we also obviously have taken a lot of time to prepare the agenda and the schedule and try as much as we can to organize the discussion so that it will be a benefit to all of the leaders.
And I want to just mention in that context, President Obama wanted to make sure that we tried to structure these meetings as a genuine conversation rather than just a series of national speeches. And I think it’s a very good opportunity for the leaders to have a real discussion, and we’ll try as much as we can to keep the intervention short and as spontaneous as possible.
But at the end of the day, the sherpas are responsible for making sure everybody reaches the summit safely and leading the way. And if they don’t, then they fall off the mountaintop first.
Q Hello. I had a quick couple of questions for Gary Samore if I could. First of all, what sort -- we have, as you said, a very tightly focused summit today -- next week, and we then have a very general conference on very wide-ranging issues next month at the NPT review conference in New York. Is there going to be any interplay? Do you expect in the bilats or in any of the margins of the meeting to be discussions of those big, broad issues in terms of getting a tighter non-proliferation regime, given the importance of the summit next month and the presence of so many actors?
And the second question, if I may, the -- is there any kind of current time scale that we can compare President Obama’s four-year goal to tie down loose nuclear materials? What kind of is the rhythm that people are working at at the moment? Just I’d like something for comparison’s sake. Many thanks.
MR. SAMORE: Sure. On the interplay, we’re really focusing the agenda of the summit on the specific issue of nuclear security and the risk that non-state actors will get access to nuclear materials for nuclear weapons. And I think that is something that everybody agrees to. So we don’t want to use this summit as a replacement for the NPT review conference or many of the other forums where the broader issues of non-proliferation and peaceful usage and arms control are discussed.
And I think that actually has been very helpful because we want to focus attention on the nuclear security issue, the threat of nuclear terrorism, and we’ve avoided some of the more contentious issues where there is actually a lot of disagreement and controversy within the international community.
But to answer your question, in the bilateral meetings, not only President Obama’s but the other leaders’, I imagine there will be broad discussion on a wide range of issues and presumably those will include some of these broader nuclear questions.
On the four-year lockdown, I think the important thing here is that the -- I mentioned earlier Senator Lugar being one of the first to call attention to this threat. People have been working since really the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and 1991 to try to address concerns about loose nuclear materials.
And I think President Obama is fortunate to come into office at a time when there’s been more than a decade of strong work in this area, including by the Bush administration. And I think because of that, we’re actually in a good position to try to deal with those remaining issues that are still there. I think the four-year goal is a realistic one and we hope that the summit is going to accelerate activities. And as I mentioned, we do expect that there will be not only concrete commitments but also some concrete actions coming out of the summit that will set the stage for additional actions over the next couple of years.
MR. RHODES: Gary, I’d just add to that on the first question, the NPT angle of this -- we, again, see the four-year lockdown as part of a comprehensive nuclear security and non-proliferation agenda. The NPT has been a focus of several of the steps that we’ve taken, including as we -- so to reiterate, we’ve put the NPT at the center of our new declaratory policy by saying that those non-nuclear states that are not in compliance with the NPT or their non-proliferation obligations will not have the reassurance of the United States as it relates to the use of nuclear weapons -- furthering the President’s commitment to incentivize countries to live up to their obligations and to find more security within the NPT, and to be isolated and to find less security when they’re outside of it.
Similarly, we believe that the new START treaty strengthens the NPT because it renews the commitment of the United States and Russia, as the two leading nuclear powers, to move in the direction of reduction, as is their obligation under the NPT.
Similarly, as Gary referenced, we expect some of the discussions that the President has in the margins of the summit and in his bilateral meetings to address issues related to broader non-proliferation goals, including the need to hold nations accountable when they do not live up to their NPT obligations.
That said, as Gary indicated, the summit itself is focused in a very targeted way on achieving this four-year lockdown goal and rallying international cooperation in that effort. We do believe that, again, this is a unique effort both as it relates to the subject that we’re addressing and as it relates to the kind of cooperation that we’re trying to foster; and that as we develop that cooperation among nations, that that can have benefits in a range of areas. But in this instance, we’re focused particularly on lockdown.
And I might add that, frankly, when you assess the urgency of the threat from nuclear weapons and materials, nuclear terrorism is at the top of that list because we, again, to reiterate, know that terrorist groups currently have the intent to use a nuclear weapon or nuclear materials where they get their hands on it.
So we believe that the focus and the sense of urgency around this effort is fundamental to the purpose of the summit. And we believe that the need to take, as Gary said, some actions that have already taken place, but then some actions that we know need to take place and some actions that can be developed through discussion. Putting together that kind of comprehensive agenda with a sense of urgency is absolutely necessary given the nature of the threat and given our ability to work together to address it within the next several years.
Q I have two questions. You mentioned that Chile is going to send all of its high-enriched uranium to the United States. Do you expect or do you encourage other countries in the region to do the same as to secure the nuclear materials? And also, are the additional protocols of IAEA going to be discussed, since they are a form of ensuring more protection? And there are many countries that have not signed to it, such as Brazil. How are you going to deal -- are you going to encourage this country to do that?
MR. SAMORE: I’ll be happy to answer those. In terms of how to handle highly enriched uranium, and in this case -- in the case of Chile, it was spent HEU fuel. The U.S. has in place a international program called the Global Threat Initiative, where we are prepared to cooperate with countries that have U.S. origin HEU fuel. We’re happy to take that back. And we think that’s one way to address and make sure that those materials are secure. A number of countries have taken advantage of that. But some countries, for a variety of reasons, may not be prepared to do that. And in that case, we’re happy to work with those countries to make sure that the material is secure in place.
So I don’t think there’s any one approach to nuclear security. The main thing is that wherever nuclear materials are located, whether it’s in the United States or anywhere in the world, they should have adequate security. And that’s something where we think countries can work together. But to the extent that there are some additional stockpiles of spent HEU fuel in Latin America or other parts of the world and it’s U.S. origin, we have an open invitation to work with countries to bring that back to the United States.
On the additional protocol issue, it’s a very important issue. I think it’s likely to be a -- it certainly will be addressed at the NPT review conference. The United States has been working at -- very closely with Brazil and Argentina in order to come up with a common approach to deal with the additional protocol. I think we’ve made a lot of progress and I’m quite optimistic that at the NPT review conference, the U.S. and Brazil will have a common position.
I don’t expect the additional protocol to be a focus of discussion at this Nuclear Security Summit. The additional protocol is important from a safeguard standpoint so that the IAEA can be assured that countries are not engaging in covert or undeclared nuclear activities, but it’s not really essential for nuclear security. And there are other measures that need to be in place for nuclear security. And as Ben and I have said, the focus of the Nuclear Security Summit will be on nuclear security, not safeguards.
Q Hi, guys. Thanks very much. I was hoping, Gary, in particular, you could clarify something. When you’re talking about additional national actions that countries can take, then you talk about international efforts that can support and sustain those, is that a recognition or otherwise a validation of the idea that national action is the appropriate venue for action on nuclear security with the international measures in support of that action? Or do you think that at some point in time as part of this effort that will shift -- ultimately a more internationalization will take place on these issues?
MR. SAMORE: Well, it’s a very good question. I would say this: The current structure that we have available focuses primary responsibility on national actions. And at this time, countries insist that their sovereign responsibility for securing nuclear materials, whether in the civil or the military sector, is primarily a national responsibility and that international efforts should assist and strengthen those national efforts.
So we’re trying to, as a practical matter, and I think as Ben said, we are facing here an urgent need to try to take corrective measures within four years. I think we want to focus on the system that is currently available, and we think that that system can be made to work. If we were to spend a lot of time trying to construct a new international architecture, I think it might actually have the unintended effect of really diverting us from taking the practical measures that we want to take in the near term.
Q Hi, I just want to ask a question regarding what the Prime Minister Netanyahu announced today that he pulled his visit because he had learned that Egypt and Turkey, among others, plan to use the event next Monday and Tuesday to push Israel to sign the treaty. My question is, don’t you believe addressing such a question of pressure on Israel may help the American effort to confront the Iranian nuclear program?
MR. RHODES: I’ll take that question. Again, I’d say two things. First of all, Prime Minister Netanyahu made his decision to not attend the summit, and I think he speaks for himself and his government as it relates to his decision. On the issue of nuclear security, I would also just say though that the, as Gary has said, that this summit is -- it’s focused on securing vulnerable nuclear materials; it is not focused on the NPT.
So we believe that this in particular is an area where there is a very broad and deep international consensus that can be developed around the kinds of actions that need to be taken; that it is in the interest, frankly, of all nations to take this action, because nobody -- everybody would be in danger to the potential risks to global security were these materials to fall under the wrong hands.
And similarly, everybody would benefit from strong national and international actions to secure vulnerable nuclear materials. So in other words, this is an area where we do believe that there is the ability to build broad consensus both in the Middle East, in the region, and around the world as to the kinds of actions that need to be taken on behalf of nuclear security.
As it relates to Iran, again, that is an issue that is separate from the agenda of the summit. However, of course the United States continues to work through the U.N. Security Council with its P5-plus-1 partners to insist that Iran meet its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And this, I’m sure, will be a subject at some of the President’s bilats, as it was with President Medvedev. And it’s also an issue of multi-lateral discussions and negotiations at the United Nations right now.
Q I just wanted to clarify one thing on the materials that will be collected. You’re talking only about the plutonium and HEU -- you’re not talking about materials that could be used for a dirty bomb or anything like that? This, in other words, would be basically state-controlled nuclear material?
MR. SAMORE: Yes. The focus of the summit is on materials that can be used for nuclear weapons, and that’s separated plutonium or high-enriched uranium. Now, that’s not to say that the -- obviously, the -- there is I think a very legitimate concern about the security of radiological materials that can be used for dirty bombs, and that’s certainly mentioned in the context of the summit communiqué and the work plan. It’s an important issue, but it’s not the focus of the summit. We’re focusing here on the most potentially catastrophic threat, which is terrorist groups acquiring or manufacturing nuclear explosives.
MR. RHODES: I would just add to what Gary said that -- I’d just add to that by saying that the -- again, the reason for this unprecedented action and the nature of the summit that the President has chosen to take, and the reason for the focus, is the fact that this is the highest order of threat; that if you survey the consequences of a security risk in the United States right now, there is nothing greater than that of a nuclear weapon that is in the hands of a terrorist that could cause hundreds of thousands of death and widespread destruction if detonated.
Similarly, we believe that this is a risk to many nations, those nations that are -- have been directly targeted by terrorist groups, including those terrorist groups that we know are pursuing this kind of capacity. And also, frankly, global security, because the consequences of the world -- the kind of world that we would live in the day after that kind of attack would be grave to global security writ large.
So that is why this summit is dedicated to addressing really what is the most urgent and gravest danger to American and global security as it relates to the nuclear issue right now. As Gary said, the radiological threat is one that also needs to be addressed. And as you’ve heard me say, that there are many other pieces. While this is focused on nuclear materials potentially falling into the hands of an extremist group, there are -- there is obviously the grave concern of the proliferation of nuclear weapons to states, which is why we have the kind of comprehensive approach that is embedded in our efforts related to the NPT, related to new START, related to our Nuclear Posture Review, and our continued insistence that nations live up to their non-proliferation obligations.
So with that, I think -- Mike, I don’t know if you want to wrap up the call. I appreciate everybody for putting up with the call sometimes cutting in and out. Even our Air Force One connections can be a little rough sometimes. But I really appreciate everybody for getting on the call and allowing us to walk you through this. And we’ll have the ability over the next several days to continue to inform you about the activities of the summit. And the President -- again, as the President’s schedule, if there are additions to it, we’ll let you know that and we’ll be able to provide you with updates as it relates to his bilateral meetings heading into Sunday and Monday.
MR. HAMMER: Perfect. Yes, I think that pretty much wraps it up. Thank you, everybody, for spending this Friday morning with us. And we look forward to a successful week next week.
11:59 A.M. EDT