Panel on the Nuclear Security Summit

Panel on the Nuclear Security Summit

By Special Report With Bret Baier - April 12, 2010


JOHN BRENNAN, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What we're trying to do is to make sure that we're able to stay several steps ahead of terrorist groups by working with these countries to make sure they are able to button down their facilities, but also take the appropriate steps and to institute the protocols that are necessary that will endure over time. This is not just a one-time event here. What we're trying to do is continue this process that's been underway for a number of years that we can truly help to safeguard these materials.


BRET BAIER, "SPECIAL REPORT" HOST: Well, that was the president's counterterrorism adviser talking about the nuclear summit here in Washington where 47 countries, leaders from 47 countries discussing the effort to rein in and to basically keep track of loose nuclear material all over the world so it doesn't get in the hands of terrorists.

But there is breaking details late in the day that the White House was touting a commitment by China to move forward and at least talk about possible sanctions on Iran. What about all of that?

Let's bring in our panel, Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson, National political correspondent of National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer.

All right, Charles, let's start with the China development, the White House saying they have a commitment from Hu Jintao that there will be an effort to move forward with some kind of sanctions against Iran. What does that mean?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It means absolutely nothing. That means that the Chinese aren't going to veto, it doesn't say what will be in the resolution. It doesn't mean that there will be anything serious about it. The Chinese could even abstain. It gets us nowhere where we a month or two ago, where Chinese has said we'll consider talking about the beginning framework of perhaps a way to approach sanctions. Meaningless.

BAIER: Do you agree, Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think it depends what comes out of this. President Obama has said he is not going to wait around forever that this has to happen in the next couple of few weeks and he needs to get a regime and really tough sanctions. I think having some kind of an embargo on refined petroleum products is part of that. That's what Russia seems to have put off the table, even though they made nice noises about sanctions in general, but they just don't want certain sanctions in particular.

BAIER: Yes, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev saying in an interview that he doesn't think the sanctions work most of the time and they'd have to be very specific in this case.

LIASSON: Right, I think that - I am willing to withhold judgment to see what he actually gets out of China and Russia. He has to get something pretty tough or else he's back to plan C which I think is working with some kind of coalition of the willing to put sanctions on Iran.

BAIER: Fred, are you buying it?

FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: I'll withhold judgment but not my expectations, and my expectations are that they're going to have another weak set of sanctions that in no way are going to influence the Iranians to back away from their nuclear weapons program. We already know there was a strong set of sanctions that even the Brits and the Germans said, oh we'll never get the Russians and the Chinese to go along with it.

They already gave those up so they're going to get the sanctions. My expectation is that it will have no effect whatsoever. If I'm pleasantly surprised that would be fine, but I'm certainly not expecting anything like that. Look, you didn't need to have a summit in Washington to get the Chinese to say they'll talk about this, because they said, as Charles pointed out it, a couple weeks ago.

What I would like to have seen is rather than a summit on loose nukes, which is an important issue but it's not the most critical issue now by far. Iran is more important, South Korea and its nuclear weapons are more important than now.

Dealing with Russia on this whole issue was more important because we know today from President Medvedev that the Russians are interpreting the new start treaty signed last week as allowing the Russians to get out of the treaty if they don't like what the U.S. is doing on missile defense. That is - look, if the Russians stick with that notion, that jeopardizes ratification of the treaty.

BAIER: Charles, the summit, overall.

KRAUTHAMMER: There is something widely disproportionate about this. The biggest gathering of world leaders on American soil since the end of the world war, founding of the U.N., which at the time seemed like an important world historical event to do what?

This is to prevent proliferation of nuclear material into hands of terrorists. Well the two most important dangerous threats of that are not even under discussion. Number one is Iran, which our own State Department says is the largest exploiter of terrorism in the world, which we all know is developing nukes. Secondly is Pakistan, which has processing of plutonium going on as we speak, which is producing new material every day. And even though it's a friendly country, it's got two insurgencies, it's unstable.

Bombs going off in its major cities every day then the Secret Service, the ISI of dubious loyalties. So you've got to ask yourself, is the major issue here the great announcement today that 86 kilos of highly enriched uranium are now secure? I don't know about you, but I haven't been staying up nights worrying about Ukrainian uranium.

If that's what we're worried about, which you have is a meeting of experts in Geneva who will work it all out and have the foreign secretaries sign off on it. But a summit of this level over the issues leaving out Iran and Pakistan is quite bizarre.

BAIER: Mara, the White House says Ukraine, Chile, a number of countries saying they are going to move the nuclear material and put it under lock and key, essentially give it to the U.S.

LIASSON: Good, look, you can't say it's a bad thing that's a good thing. To say we are having this summit instead of dealing with Iran, no we're actually having this summit and we're dealing with Iran in all these bilaterals. Securing loose nukes is an important thing, to say it's the number one threat right now. I agree with Charles, it's not, Iran is much scarier.

BAIER: They're saying it's the number one security threat.

LIASSON: No, well - they're saying it's one of the - the nuclear weapons falling into the hands of a terrorist, is the number one security threat. They're not playing down the threat of Iran. They need to do something about Iran or else we're going to be onto plan "D," which is containment.

BAIER: What about the White House expectations, not for the bilateral meetings, but for the summit itself?

LIASSON: Yes, I think White House expectations were high. Whatever regime and agreement comes out of this has to be very practical and has to really bind people to do something. If it's vague, then it will seem like a ridiculous exercise to get everybody here for that.

BARNES: It's vague and non-binding.

BAIER: Last word, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: Chilean and Ukrainian proliferation is not the highest agenda in the world this evening. You don't need the largest gathering of leaders in order to deal with it. You could have experts do it. You want to gather world leaders, it should be over Iran and Pakistan. It's not even under discussion.


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