Annus Mirabilis?

By John Liang / January 22, 2010 at 5:00 AM

The past year's nonproliferation-related events, including President Obama's April 5 speech in Prague, as well as his meeting later on that year with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, constitute a "year of miracles," according to former Defense Secretary William Perry.

"If I look at all of these events together, I would say two things about them: First of all, they were totally unpredictable three years ago," Perry said this morning at a Carnegie Endowment event in Washington. "I would not have imagined seeing governments take such strong positions (on arms control) three years ago. . . . Think back to the 'annus mirabilis' that we all thought about at the time that the Soviet Union broke up and Eastern Europe broke free, it has been a year of miracles."

However, lest he "become overtaken with irrational exuberance," Perry noted that "what remains to be done is much, much more important and much, much more difficult than what has been done. Opposing forces to nuclear disarmament are gathering strength . . . the president will face a substantial battle if he gets a START follow-on treaty negotiated, he will face a substantial battle getting it ratified in the U.S. Senate, and an even more substantial battle on getting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty ratified."

Consequently, according to Perry:

More than anything at this stage what we need is less rhetoric about where we are going and more concrete, positive action about how to get there. We need a clear path forward through the minefields, and that path should have practical steps that can be taken that lead in that right direction but each step in and of itself can be justified on grounds that it will improve our security.

A new report from the independent International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, released in the United States this morning, outlines the steps the international community can take to minimize those threats.

Perry, who served on the commission along with 14 other international experts, said the panel's report "played out such a clear path forward."