(by Maarten Van Tartwijk and Carol E. Lee, The Wall Street Journal)  THE HAGUE – More than 30 countries agreed Tuesday to adopt guidelines to improve nuclear security as part of a U.S.-orchestrated effort, but major nuclear powers including Russia and China were notably absent from the list. 

nuclear security_Hague

President Obama meets with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in The Hague on Tuesday. (AP)

While more than 50 countries were involved in the negotiations, only 35 said they would implement the guidelines meant to prevent nuclear and radioactive material from falling in the hands of terrorists. [Among the countries that agreed were the U.S., France, Britain, Canada and Israel.]

Russia, which has large stockpiles of nuclear weapons, didn’t sign up. China, India and Pakistan also didn’t join.  [North Korea is also not on the list.]

The idea for the Nuclear Security Summit was floated by President Obama in 2009, when he declared nuclear terrorism one of the greatest threats to international security. But the crisis in Ukraine cast a shadow over the gathering and raised fresh questions about the viability of the international effort.

[The countries which agreed pledged to turn international guidelines on nuclear security into national laws, a move aimed at preventing terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear material. The agreement also commits countries to open up their security procedures to independent review, a further step toward creating an international legal framework to thwart nuclear terrorism, said a joint statement from the Netherlands, the U.S. and South Korea.]  U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he was satisfied with the outcome. “[It is] the closest thing we have to international standards for nuclear security,” he said during a news conference.

The White House, seeking to maintain the credibility of Mr. Obama’s nonproliferation agenda, separately Tuesday issued a joint statement with Ukraine saying the two countries will uphold their parts of a 1994 agreement with Russia under which Kiev gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a guarantee of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

map_of_netherlandsWestern officials fear Moscow’s annexation of Crimea has threatened the credibility of such guarantees. Their statement was designed to buttress the importance of cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine when both countries face questions about whether a nuclear-armed Ukraine could have prevented Russia’s actions.

“Russia’s actions undermine the foundation of the global security architecture and endanger European peace and security,” the statement said. “As the people of Ukraine work to restore unity, peace, and security to their country, the United States will stand by their side.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in brief remarks as the summit wound down, suggested the crisis risked sending the message that regimes around the world can better safeguard their territory if they possess nuclear weapons.

“The fact that Russia, as a country that committed itself to the security of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in a very special way, has now greatly breached that integrity is surely, internationally, a very bad example,” Ms. Merkel said. “I hope it doesn’t teach a lesson, but the danger is there.”

Tuesday’s agreement will require countries to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines that aim to guarantee the safety of nuclear materials during production and transportation.

The countries also agreed to cooperate more closely on technical issues and share information “while respecting confidentiality,” they said in a joint statement.

[At the end of the Summit President Obama said: “I’ll close by reminding everyone that one of the achievements of my first summit in 2010 was Ukraine’s decision to remove all of its highly enriched uranium from its nuclear fuel sites. Had that not happened, those dangerous nuclear materials would still be there now. And the difficult situation we’re dealing with in Ukraine today would involve yet another level of concern.”]

Mr. Obama met Tuesday morning with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president will also meet jointly with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, and separately with Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, before flying to Brussels for meetings Wednesday with the European Union and NATO.

[A final summit is scheduled for 2016 in the United States, but the process of securing nuclear material will not end there.  “Obama is thinking about a sustainable nuclear security system post-2016 so creating the architecture will be his homework,” said Chang-Hoon Shin, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “Sustainable, global nuclear security architecture is a long-term aim.”]

– Anton Troianovski contributed to this article.

Copyright 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. Visit the website at wsj .com.


1. How many countries attended the National Security Summit at the Hague organized by the U.S.? (What is the Hague?)
b) How many of those governments agreed to adopt guidelines to improve nuclear security?

2. a) Which countries did not sign the agreement?
b) List the countries which are known to have nuclear weapons.

3. a) Define viability.
b) What recent event has raised questions about the viability of the Nuclear Security agreement?

4. Why did the White House on Tuesday issue a joint statement with Ukraine saying the two countries will uphold their parts of a 1994 agreement with Russia under which Ukraine’s government gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a guarantee of Ukraine’s territorial integrity?

5. What have the countries that signed the agreement agreed to do?

6. President Obama supports a policy of nuclear disarmament. Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. In a commentary opposing nonproliferation, Thomas Sowell writes:
“But the only country we can disarm is our own. The only countries we might be able to persuade to disarm are countries that intend no harm in the first place. Those that do intend harm would be delighted to have all their victims disarmed.”
a) With which position do you agree? Explain your answer.
b) Do you think this assertion applies to the Nuclear Security Summit agreement…or do you think the Summit agreement is a good step in the right direction to making the world safe from nuclear weapons? Explain your answer.


Nuclear weapons around the world:

  • Under the United Nation’s NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty), countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom). 
  • Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). 
  • There are eight sovereign states that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons.
  • Five are considered to be “nuclear-weapon states” (NWS) under the terms of theNuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
  • In order of acquisition of nuclear weapons these are: the United States, the Russian Federation (successor state to the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, France, and China. 
  • Since the NPT entered into force in 1970, three states that were not parties to the Treaty have conducted nuclear tests, namely India, Pakistan, and North Korea. North Korea had been a party to the NPT but withdrew in 2003. 
  • Israel is also widely believed to have nuclear weapons, though it maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity regarding this, and is not known definitively to have conducted a nuclear test.
  • South Africa has the unique status of a nation that developed nuclear weapons but has since disassembled its arsenal before joining the NPT.
  • The NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) was founded in 1974 in response to the Indian nuclear test earlier that year. The test demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily turned to weapons development. Nations already signatories of the NPT saw the need to further limit the export of nuclear equipment, materials or technology. (The U.S. is a member of the NSG.) (from wikipedia)

There are 193 United Nations (UN) member states. 162 of these are members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

From the National Security Summit website: (nss2014.com):

  • Member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are not obliged to follow the Agency’s guidelines on the protection of nuclear material, but once countries incorporate the guidelines into national legislation, compliance with IAEA rules becomes mandatory – for government, the private sector and the research community alike.
  • During this week’s Nuclear Security Summit, 35 countries have pledged to incorporate these IAEA guidelines into national law.
  • These countries have also pledged to allow teams of international experts to evaluate their security procedures for nuclear material.
  • The admission of external experts is a powerful tool. It guarantees that security will be assessed on the basis of international standards and ensures the effectiveness of the measures taken.
  • Countries generally follow the experts’ recommendations because otherwise the impression could arise that their security practices are not up to standard.
  • A system like this also serves to boost international confidence in other countries’ measures, so there is greater certainty that terrorists will not be able to obtain nuclear material.

The following countries have committed themselves to these far-reaching agreements:
Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, the Republic of Korea [South Korea], Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Vietnam.

(NOTE: For a pdf of the IAEA’s “Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities” published in 2011, go to:


Read an opinion on nuclear disarmament at: 

Get Free Answers

Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.