A train is rolling through the Polish countryside
toward the Czech border. Among its dozens of freight cars
carrying shipments of commercial goods and commodities are
materials that are used as precursors to chemical weapons.
These materials appear to be bound for a legitimate manufacturer
in Prague. But intelligence services and foreign ministries
have good reason to believe otherwise. They have shared
information, and defense and law enforcement officials in
Poland and the Czech Republic are on alert. The train will
be boarded and inspected at its first stop inside Czech
territory. Next week, a private aircraft will fly westward
from Italy and the plane will be intercepted by Spanish
fighters after similar information is received about its
Fortunately, these alarming events are
not real. They are training scenarios that participants
in the multinational Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
are using to stop the real-life spread of weapons of mass
Today marks the Initiative’s second
anniversary. Under this Initiative, nations across the globe
– including the United States and Uruguay –
are working in partnership to reduce the risk of weapons
of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists,
rogue states, or black marketeers. Over the past two years,
a variety of participants have led fourteen interdiction
training exercises in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Later
this year, Singapore and Norway will lead PSI-related activities.
Over 60 countries already participate in
the PSI, and additional participants are welcome. Most recently,
Argentina, Georgia and Iraq have endorsed the Initiative.
PSI has – and needs – no formal support structure,
secretariat, headquarters, or chairperson. Rather, PSI consists
of an agreement among participating states to take concerted
action against proliferation through cooperation among their
law enforcement communities, militaries, and foreign ministries.
The PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles sets out the
core objectives and cooperative methods of the Initiative.
All actions taken by partner countries must be consistent
with national and international laws, regulations and procedures.
Participants also are considering how these existing frameworks
might be strengthened.
PSI advances the spirit and letter of U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1540, which calls on all UN
member states “to take cooperative action” to
prevent trafficking related to weapons of mass destruction.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has applauded the work of
all countries active in the Initiative and highlighted it
as an example of the type of cooperative action that nations
should be pursuing to reduce the current global proliferation
threat. The Secretary General’s 2004 “High Level
Panel Report on Threats, Challenges and Change” cites
the smuggling network of renegade Pakistani scientist A.Q.
Khan as a reminder of the need to take new actions to interdict
clandestine trade in components required for nuclear, chemical,
biological or radiological weapons development.
As we have learned from the unraveling
of the A.Q. Khan network, proliferators are employing increasingly
sophisticated and aggressive measures to obtain materials
related to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery
systems. They rely heavily on front companies and brokers
in their quest for arms, equipment, sensitive technology,
and dual-use goods and they hide their illicit trafficking
amid legitimate commerce. An early success of the PSI –
the 2003 interdiction of the BBC China – shows how
cooperative international efforts can stop proliferators
in their tracks and prevent the exploitation of vital trade
For the terrorist, the acquisition of a nuclear, chemical,
biological or radiological device can only mean one thing
– mass murder and devastation on a scale far worse
than that of the September 11, Beslan, Madrid, Bali and
other attacks of recent memory combined. Every day, the
U.S., Uruguay, and more than 60 other nations participating
in the PSI are working in partnership to ensure that such
a nightmare never occurs – here or anywhere else within
our international community.