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Nuclear proliferation – about to mushroom?
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Nuclear proliferation – about to mushroom?
Nuclear weapons have been with us for generations. But as President Obama sets out his vision for a world free of them, NATO Review looks at how this would work, the potential pitfalls and where the biggest threats currently sit. In this edition, a host of international experts weigh in on whether the world will ever see global nuclear zero.
President Obama made one of his first commitments a move towards a nuclear free world. NATO Review looks at why this is important, the obstacles he faces and whether success is attainable.
Will 2010 be the deciding year for whether we can achieve a nuclear-free world? With so many crucial issues, from START to Iran, on the agenda, will 2010 be the year that history records as central to nuclear disarmament?
Iran is seen by many as a key test of the international community's resolve. If it is allowed to get a nuclear weapon, surely everyone is? So what will be done, in this final crucial phase, by both Iran and those trying to stop it?
Will the NPT eventually see its ideals realised? Or will it become increasingly outdated in a changing world? How can it deal with rule breakers, non-state actors and enforcement? NATO Review looks at how a key treaty faces the future.
Is the biggest nuclear threat actually not nuclear weapons but rather a terrorist dirty bomb - the explosion of nuclear materials? Many think so. Here we outline what the dangers are and how the consequences would affect us.
If countries and organisations are to be trusted not to break the world's nuclear rules, we need an international watchdog. The International Atomic Energy Agency is that watchdog. But does it have the money and freedom to carry out its role?
What role do nuclear issues have in NATO? How does the Alliance see the changes in the nuclear political landscape this year and how will this be reflected in its new Strategic Concept?

1 July, 1968 is a largely unremarkable date for most people. It came a few weeks after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, a few weeks before the Palestinian Liberation Organisation hijacked its first El Al plane. In South East Asia, the Vietnam conflict rumbled on and in August, a new reminder of Cold War differences would emerge in Czechoslovakia.

All of these events gained major headlines and chapters in history books. But less covered, both then and since, was the treaty signed on 1 July, 1968 which may have proved to have had a longer lasting influence than all of these other events and many others since. That day, the world started the ball rolling towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons by setting up the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Today, the NPT is the treaty with the most signatories in the world. It has largely prevented nearly all non-nuclear states from obtaining these weapons. And it put a focus on nuclear states to try to start moving towards eliminating them.

This year, the treaty is more important than ever as issues such as Iran's nuclear programme, controlling loose nuclear materials and new nuclear arsenal reductions have all risen up the international agenda.

So, as the NPT celebrates its 40th birthday (it came into force in March 1970), NATO Review asks experts how the treaty can adapt to changes in those seeking nuclear weapons (such as terrorist organisations), whether its rules can really be enforced and whether 2010 will be a key year for nuclear issues.

Paul King, Editor