‘Gang of Four’ advises spreading awareness for nuclear nonproliferation efforts


Former Sen. Sam Nunn, center, discusses nuclear nonproliferation on Friday. Joining him were Henry Kissinger, left, William Perry, right, and George Shultz, not pictured. (FRANCISCA GILMORE/The Stanford Daily)

Four former statesmen — Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, George Shultz and William Perry ’49 M.S. ’50 — addressed an audience of Stanford students on Friday on the prospects and challenges of global nuclear nonproliferation. The gathering marked the fourth conference held at Stanford by the four men, who have come to be known in their advocacy as the “Gang of Four.”

After a screening of “Nuclear Tipping Point,” a documentary produced by the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Security Project detailing the men’s efforts, the panel, moderated by Phil Taubman ‘70, took questions from the audience.

Asked what must be done in the U.S. to begin a process toward nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, Perry said, “The first thing that needs to be done is the United States needs to ratify the New Start treaty.”

New Start was signed by President Obama and Russian President Medvedev in April as a follow-up to the 1991 START I treaty and the 1993 START II treaty between the two nations. If ratified, New Start would limit the nations’ nuclear weapons stockpiles to nearly two-thirds of their current sizes.

In Japan on Sunday, Obama told Medvedev the U.S. administration is committed to ratifying the treaty during the lame-duck session of Congress that begins this week.

Asked what actions, if any, the U.S. should take regarding the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — a common concern in the field of national security due to declared attempts by terrorist networks to obtain nuclear material — each of the four men had an answer.

“They have their nuclear weapons very well hidden and secured, to protect them not only from the Indians but also from the United States,” Perry said. He would not recommend a U.S. military operation in Pakistan to secure the weapons, he said.

“But we should do what we can to prevent a nuclear exchange in the Asian subcontinent,” Kissinger added. “This is not something we will observe quietly.”

Shultz said the U.S. should engage India and Pakistan diplomatically and “regionalize” the answers. “Fortunately, India is less and less preoccupied with Pakistan and more aware of its global role,” he said.

Nunn said the U.S. should share with India and Pakistan lessons learned between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Asked what Stanford students can do to promote nuclear nonproliferation, Perry returned to the current legislative prospects: New Start and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The latter was signed by the U.S. in 1996, but its ratification is stalled in the Senate.

“If they fail to be ratified, it will be because the American public doesn’t understand them,” said Perry, who suggested that students show “Nuclear Tipping Point,” the documentary, to their friends to spread awareness of the threat posed by nuclear weapons.

Shultz led the organization of three previous conferences at Stanford on the men’s cause. The first was held at the Hoover Institution in October 2006 on the 20th anniversary of the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, between Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev. (As Secretary of State, Shultz sat next to Reagan there.) The following two meetings were held in October 2007 and September 2009.

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Devin Banerjee was president and editor in chief of Volume 236 of The Stanford Daily, serving from June 2009 to January 2010. He joined The Daily's staff in September 2007. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @devinbanerjee.