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– Lord Des Browne
Vice Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Samore Suggests 2016 Security Summit
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Daniel Horner

President Barack Obama should consider holding a nuclear security summit in 2016 rather than ending the ongoing series of summits next year, Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief adviser on arms control, said Feb. 22.

Following up on a proposal that Obama made in his April 2009 speech in Prague, the Obama administration hosted the first nuclear security summit a year later in Washington. The second summit was in Seoul last year. Officials from the United States and several other countries have suggested that next year’s meeting, which is to be held in The Hague, could be the last.

In his remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., Samore, who until earlier this year was White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction terrorism, said “there’s a stronger argument to be made” for holding a 2016 summit in Washington instead of ending the process in 2014.

The additional summit would “create a stronger basis for transferring nuclear security issues from a summit level to more-inclusive venues,” such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations, and would give those institutions time to make sure they can handle their new roles effectively, said Samore, whose duties in the administration included overseeing U.S. preparations for the Washington and Seoul summits.

Citing a high-level nuclear security meeting that the IAEA is planning to hold this July (see ACT, December 2012), Samore said, “I’d like to see how effective and productive that [meeting] is before I decided that it would make sense” for the IAEA to take on major responsibilities in nuclear security.

Officials from the 53 countries that have participated in the summits hold a “range of views” as to whether the series of meetings should continue after next year’s, Samore said. Some of the countries that oppose the idea “have been suspicious from the beginning about the nuclear security summit process,” he said.

Other countries are likely to follow Obama’s lead on the issue, said Samore, who now is executive director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. Obama needs to determine whether hosting another summit is worth the energy it would require, he said.