Working through Senator Lugar’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, we have deactivated or destroyed thousands of nuclear weapons.  But vast stocks of potentially dangerous nuclear materials remain vulnerable to theft or diversion.  With growing global energy needs and the threat of climate change, the demand for nuclear power is expanding, and we do need to continue to facilitate the legitimate peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Yet, this expansion has not been accompanied by corresponding measures that could reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation.

We also know that unless these trends are reversed, and reversed soon, we will find ourselves in a world with a steadily growing number of nuclear-armed states, and increasing likelihood of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons.

President Obama recognizes this danger.  In April, in Prague, he presented the United States’ vision for how to meet these challenges.  He reinforced the core bargain of the global nonproliferation regime, calling on all states to live up to their responsibilities and put down a marker for every nation when he called for a world free of nuclear weapons.  And last month, when President Obama became the first United States President to chair a session of the United Nations Security Council, he presided over the unanimous passage of a resolution that set forth a robust nonproliferation and arms control agenda.

Pursuing these goals is not an act of starry-eyed idealism or blind allegiance to principle.  It is about taking responsibility to prevent the use of the world’s most dangerous weapons, and holding others accountable as well.  The policies that take us there must be up to the task:  tough, smart, and driven by the core interests of the United States.  As the President has acknowledged, we might not achieve the ambition of a world without nuclear weapons in our lifetime or successive lifetimes.  But we believe that pursuing this vision will enhance our national security and international stability.

We also believe that the United States must maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee the defense of our allies and partners while we pursue our vision.

All countries have an obligation to help address the challenges posed by nuclear weapons, beginning with the nuclear weapons states.  As the permanent members of the Security Council and the only nuclear weapon states recognized by the NPT, we all have a responsibility to stop the erosion of the nonproliferation regime and to address the current crisis of compliance in which some countries apparently feel they can violate their obligations and defy the Security Council with impunity.