Courtesy Reuters

International efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons typically focus on thwarting the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran. This, however, is a game that is unlikely to be won. North Korea has built and tested nuclear weapons, and Iran is on the threshold of being able to build them. The leaders of both countries remain unmoved by international condemnation and pressure. To them, the prestige, security, and influence presumed to derive from nuclear weapons seem more compelling than the weak penalties and uncertain inducements of multilateral diplomacy. Another round of sanctions or talks is unlikely to change this calculus.

Rather than fixating on the proliferation they are unable to prevent, concerned countries should pay more attention to preventing proliferation to states that have not yet decided to build nuclear weapons, particularly states in the Middle East. Such a strategy will require that the international community improve its

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  • GREGORY L. SCHULTE was U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations in Vienna from 2005 to 2009. He wrote this essay while a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Defense University. The views expressed here are his own.
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