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Obama Hails Nuclear-Security Progress At Summit's End

President Barack Obama at a news conference marking the end of his Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. Alex Brandon/AP Photo hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP Photo

President Barack Obama at a news conference marking the end of his Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

The Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama has ended and the president is hailing it as a great success for a number of reasons.

For one, the nearly 50 nations whose leaders attended the summit were finally all on the same page about the global threat represented by terrorist groups getting their hands on the material necessary to make a nuclear device.

Before the summit, some nations saw the threat from loose nukes or nuclear materials being solely aimed at the U.S. and other Western nations and so weren't as concerned as U.S. policymakers by the potential threat.

But the summit changed all that, Obama indicated in a brief news conference at the end of the meeting:

First, we agreed on the urgency and seriousness of the threat. Coming into this summit, there were a range of views on this danger, but at our dinner last night, and throughout the day, we developed a shared understanding of the risk. Today, we are declaring that nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security. We also agreed that the most effective way to
prevent terrorists and criminals from acquiring nuclear materials is through strong nuclear security: protecting nuclear materials and preventing nuclear smuggling.

That consensus was reflected in the communique produced by the summiteers.

International conferences also have a way of forcing leaders to announce various actions or "deliverables" in the jargon of statecraft so that they such meetings don't end with the appearance of all talk and no action.

Obama mentioned some of those deliverables. For instance, the Ukrainians agreed that it would allow its stockpile of weapons-grade uranium to be turned into low enriched uranium more suitable for producing nuclear energy. Obama pointed to that decision as a breakthrough since the U.S. had been trying to get the Ukrainians to reach such an agreement for ten years.

In the same vein, the Russians said they would shutter their last plutonium reactor that makes material for nuclear weapons.

Actions like this allowed the president to state:

This evening I can report that we have seized this opportunity. And because of the steps we've taken, as individual nations and as an international community, the American people will be safer and the world will be more secure.

I want to thank all who participated in this historic summit — 49 leaders from every region of the world. Today's progress was possible because these leaders came not simply to talk, but to take action; not simply to make vague pledges of future action, but to commit to meaningful steps that they are prepared to implement right now.