WASHINGTON, DC – As we enter 2011, the Euro-Atlantic region is a study in strategic contrasts. Over the past 20 years, no geo-political space has undergone as dramatic a transformation as that between the Atlantic and the Urals. In our lifetimes, we have seen a welcome change from the darkest days of the Cold War, when a devastating conventional and nuclear war in Europe was a real possibility, to a new era in which no state faces this type of existential threat.
But, despite these positive developments, the two largest powers in the region – the United States and Russia – each still possesses thousands of nuclear weapons, accounting for more than 90% of the world’s nuclear inventory. Many of these weapons remain deployed or designed for use within the Euro-Atlantic region.
Reduction and elimination of this Cold War-era nuclear infrastructure is the largest piece of unfinished business from that bygone time. The continuing existence of large strategic nuclear forces deployed on high alert, and of tactical nuclear weapons deployed in certain NATO states and Russia, creates a risk of accidental, unauthorized, or mistaken use, and of terrorist groups acquiring these assets. So security vigilance is essential.
To meet this challenge, the three of us – building on the action plan adopted by consensus at the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference – have endorsed a series of urgent, practical steps towards the long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. These include: