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Research Report

The Proliferation Security Initiative:: Challenges and Perceptions

Barry W. Coceano
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2004
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 27
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. vii-viii)
    Christopher J. Makins

    Since the ascendance of terrorism as one of the major threats to international peace and security, or at least the world’s realization of terrorism as such, the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has acquired a new dimension of threat. The evident interest in WMD shown by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda has underlined this danger and given heightened urgency to strengthening the international non-proliferation regime. As part of a new non-proliferation strategy, the George W. Bush administration proposed the creation of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in May 2003. This initiative has resulted in an agreement...

  2. (pp. 1-4)

    During the Cold War era, the primary threat to international peace and stability was clear – a potential nuclear showdown between the two world powers. During this bipolar period of history, most countries allied themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union, with the opposing threat being clearly defined and imminent. Since 1989 and the end of the Cold War, the world has entered a time where the threat resonates from two primary sources: non-state actors, primarily terrorists, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It is the responsibility, and must continue to be one of...

  3. (pp. 4-5)

    On 11 September 2001, terrorists struck at the heart of the United States with swift, well-orchestrated attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. This eye-opening experience demonstrated the will of radical terrorist organizations to strike anywhere, and at the time of their choosing. As heinous as these acts of mass murder were to the civilized world, the same terrorist organizations desire to magnify the resulting death and destruction ten-fold, and would have no reservations against doing so if given the opportunity and capability. For this reason, a weapon of mass destruction must never fall into their hands.


  4. (pp. 5-8)

    The first meeting of the eleven PSI signatory countries was hosted by Spain and took place in Madrid in June 2003. During the meeting, the framework for the program was developed and consensus was reached by all parties to focus on supportable strategies for the interdiction of cargo whether at sea, in the air, or over ground containing WMD, WMD-related components, and/or delivery systems (i.e. missile systems). Despite U.S. arguments to make the international waters and airspace the focal point for interdiction operations, based upon the events that transpired during the interdiction of the North Korean merchant vessel MV So...

  5. (pp. 8-11)

    Although PSI is beginning to gather momentum globally, it is far from a mature activity and must be closely managed and monitored in order to continue building upon the progress that has been made. Keeping this in mind, there are a number of obstacles – known and unknown – which lie in wait and will prove challenging for strategists and policymakers.

    The first challenge is to continue efforts to expand international support for and participation in the initiative. In order for PSI to be fully successful it must have the international community as its cast of participants, not just a...

  6. (pp. 11-14)

    The United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defense, Geoff Hoon, stated during the 2003 Atlantic Treaty Association General Assembly in Edinburgh, Scotland, “Defense against WMD is not only a military issue, but a diplomatic one as well.”17 In line with his statement, there are diplomatic tools that may be relevant for PSI to pursue. United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and/or General Assembly resolutions can be utilized to demonstrate world opinion on global issues. A resolution from either forum supporting an issue is analogous to global consensus or international opinion of moral authority. Security Council resolutions contribute to the maintenance...

  7. (pp. 14-16)

    Robert Hill, Senator for South Australia and Minister of Defense, recently stated, “There are a lot of complex legal issues and there is now a team engaged from across the 11 countries working on those legal issues. We’ve always said that what we are seeking to do is defeat an illegal transfer so the operation has got to be within the law, and reaching a consensus between the 11 countries on the principles of law is not an easy task. But it will be achieved because the 11 countries are so determined to effectively defeat this threat.”23 Senator Hill’s words...

  8. (pp. 16-17)

    In order for the Proliferation Security Initiative to be accepted globally and become a viable non-proliferation mechanism possessing international political support backed by law enforcement and multinational military muscle, it must resonate as an international initiative, as opposed to an exclusively U.S.-driven one. If viewed as an extension of U.S. foreign policy, a tool that the United States has developed and pushed forward solely in an effort to enhance its own domestic security, it will fail to gain full global support and consequently be hard pressed to meet its stated goals. Over the past year, the United States has been...

  9. (pp. 17-19)

    The Proliferation Security Initiative is a global security initiative with promising potential; however, future success will be dependant on acceptance and support by the international community of both the initiative’s objectives and the associated Statement of Interdiction Principles. As terrorist organizations look for new ways either to raise fear in global populations or to target countries opposed to their ideology, they will undoubtedly desire to obtain and utilize WMD as part of their overarching strategy. The international community must work together to ensure that this is never allowed to happen. If countries that support terrorist organizations are not deterred politically...