WASHINGTON, Apr 6—President Obama has called for a world free of nuclear weapons. But many influential people in the United States and abroad question whether this objective is desirable or feasible. In a follow-up to George Perkovich and James M. Acton’s groundbreaking paper, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, leading experts from thirteen countries debate what it would take to achieve the immensely important yet equally difficult goal of reducing the world’s nuclear weapons to zero.

The editors note that none of the nuclear-weapon states "has an employee, let alone an inter-agency group, tasked full time with figuring out what would be required to verifiably decommission all its nuclear weapons." Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate begins the serious discussion of the conditions necessary for total disarmament.

Perkovich and Acton invited a distinguished group of current and former officials and respected defense analysts—from nuclear-armed and non–nuclear-weapon states—to recommend new paths toward disarmament and the best ways to verify and enforce new measures. Their responses are published in this volume, together with the original Adelphi Paper, and a response by Perkovich and Acton.




  • "The problem is…the impression of cynical disdain, as the nuclear powers insist that the non–nuclear weapon states strictly follow treaty obligations while showing indifference to their own."
    ~Sir Lawrence Freedman
  • "This Adelphi paper should be seen in itself as a positive, personal example of American and British cooperation to honor national commitments to work in good faith toward…nuclear disarmament."
    ~Scott Sagan
  • "The vast majority of nations do not possess or seek nuclear weapons. They are likely to support a serious experiment at nuclear disarmament even if it is ultimately unsuccessful. The only way to know is to try."
    ~ James Doyle


  • George Perkovich is vice president for studies and director of the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on nuclear strategy and nonproliferation, with a focus on South Asia and Iran, and on the problem of justice in the international political economy.
  • James Acton is an associate in the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment specializing in nonproliferation and disarmament. A physicist by training, Acton’s research focuses on the interface of technical and political issues, with special attention to the civilian nuclear industry, IAEA safeguards, and practical solutions to strengthening the nonproliferation regime.
  • For more on the debate on abolishing nuclear weapons, download video, transcript, and audio from the 2009 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference.
  • The 2009 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, “The Nuclear Order – Build or Break” will address the future direction of the nonproliferation regime and offer new recommendations. The Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference is widely considered the premier event in the field and attracts over 800 government officials, policy and technical experts, academics, and media from around the world.
  • The Carnegie Nonproliferation Program is an internationally recognized source of knowledge and policy thinking on efforts to curb the spread and use of nuclear weapons. Carnegie’s analysis consistently stays at the forefront of proliferation developments and nonproliferation policy debates.
  • Carnegie Proliferation News provides synopses of top news stories related to preventing the spread and use of nuclear weapons every Tuesday and Thursday as well as periodic issue briefs on the top news making issues.