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Assessing the Nuclear Threat

Paul C. Warnke Lecture on International Security with Jessica Mathews

Speaker: Jessica Tuchman Mathews, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Presider: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
April 30, 2014

Event Description

Jessica Mathews of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace joins CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb to discuss the current state of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Mathews identifies India-Pakistan as the most concerning nuclear hotspot in the world today, both in terms of the potential for nuclear conflict between the two countries and also for the risk of proliferation of nuclear materials to nonstate actors. She is optimistic about the potential for a nuclear deal with Iran over the coming months, but suggests that a new approach may be needed to deal with the North Korean nuclear program.

The Paul C. Warnke Lecture on International Security was established in 2002, and is dedicated to the memory of Paul Warnke (1920-2001), member and former director of the Council on Foreign Relations. The series commemorates his legacy of public service, his friendship to the Council, and his unique combination of eloquence, intellect, and pragmatism in the cause of peace and America's values.

Event Highlights

Jessica Mathews on India and Pakistan and the potential for nuclear conflict:

"I think that the thing that we ought to worry about most is India-Pakistan, in terms of real threat, in terms of likelihood of a conflict becoming nuclear. We have gotten, I think, all so used to saying this is the most dangerous threat and nothing happens for year after year after year, we forget to feel it. But Pakistan is, as I think everybody knows, a government with a tenuous hold on its own country, actively expanding its nuclear arsenal, making easily portable tactical nuclear weapons, which could easily be taken over by terrorist groups."

Jessica Mathews on the chances for a nuclear agreement with Iran:

"I think the chances are good. This is a classic case, where finally, both parties at the table want a deal. And when that happens, you usually get a deal. And it's a hugely difficult one. There's still an awful lot of tough issues to confront that weren't even touched on in the interim agreement. But what scares me is not the people in the room. What scares me is the Revolutionary Guard and that crew in Tehran and the opponents of a deal on Capitol Hill here and in Jerusalem."

Jessica Mathews on North Korea's nuclear program:

"You know, if there was ever an issue that deserves to be rethought, it's what we have been trying to do with the North Koreans for—I mean, if there ever was an approach that has been proven to be not working, it's what we've been trying to—whether it's bilateral or six-party with the North Koreans, it has failed."

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