Jeffrey LewisArms Control Person of the Year 2009

Sen. Richard Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn near Shchuchye, Russia in 2007 (AP Photo/Douglas Birch)

The Arms Control Association is holding their annual “Arms Control Person of the Year” contest.

Vote for the 2009 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year

As 2009 nears its end, it is time to recognize some of the most important arms control developments and achievements of the past 12 months. To help do that, the staff of the Arms Control Association have nominated several well-known and some lesser-known individuals and institutions for the title of “2009 Arms Control Person(s) of the Year.”

You decide the winner by casting your vote here by January 8.

And the nominees are:

The governments of the 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for achieving the entry into force of the 2006 Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons in September when Benin became the ninth state to deposit its instruments of ratification. The Convention bans arms transfers by member states with exceptions for the legitimate defense and security needs, law enforcement, and participation in peace support operations. See .

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for his tireless efforts on behalf of landmine victims worldwide and for his role in convincing the Obama administration to launch a more thorough review of U.S. policy on the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and for pressing it to join the treaty. See .

The law enforcement authorities of the United Arab Emirates and Thailand for their successful interdiction of illicit North Korean arms shipments bound for unstable regions of the world in July and December, respectively. The interdictions were carried out in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1874, which mandates an intensified inspection regime to prevent proliferation to and from North Korea, calls for enhanced financial restrictions against North Korea and North Korean firms, and requires a nearly comprehensive arms embargo on the country. See .

Ambassador Roberto García Moritán of Argentina for chairing the open-ended working group on a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty. His work helped lead UN member states to adopt a process leading to the conclusion of a treaty in 2012. See .

The governments of Malawi and Burundi for becoming the 27th and 28th states to ratify the 1996 Treaty of Pelindaba on July 15 and triggering the pact’s formal entry into force. The treaty establishes a nuclear-weapon-free zone (NWFZ) in Africa by prohibiting the possession, development, manufacture, testing, or deployment of nuclear weapons on the African continent and associated islands. See .

The intelligence services of Britain, France, and the United States for successfully identifying Iran’s clandestine effort to build the Fordow Nuclear Enrichment Plant near Qom, which raised further questions regarding the purpose of Iran’s program and led to the application of IAEA safeguards at the site. See .

Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) for his long-running support for U.S. financial contributions to assist with the construction of Russia’s Shchuchye chemical weapons demilitarization complex, which began work this year to neutralize neutralize about 2 million shells and warheads stored nearby that are loaded with VX, sarin and soman. Under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia and the United States are required to destroy their chemical weapons by 2012—a deadline neither will likely meet. See .

U.S. President Barack Obama for his April 5 commitment to achieving concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons, his September 23 pledge to the UN General Assembly to “complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts and reduces the role of nuclear weapons,” and for proposing and winning UN Security Council approval of Resolution 1887, which calls for action on a comprehensive set of nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear materials security measures. See and .

Former German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and new German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for their respective calls for the withdrawal of the U.S. tactical nuclear weapons deployed in their country. Steinmeier told the German magazine Der Spiegel April 10 that “these weapons are militarily obsolete today” and promised that he would take steps to ensure that the remaining U.S. warheads “are removed from Germany.” On October 25, Westerwelle said the new German government would “enter talks with our allies so that the last of the nuclear weapons still stationed in Germany, relics of the Cold War, can finally be removed.” See .

Japan’s new Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada for his call for states that possess nuclear weapons to adopt no first use policies and for the recognition that “[w]e do not necessarily need a nuclear umbrella against the nuclear threat of North Korea. I think conventional weapons are enough to deal with it.” See .

Russian Foreign Ministry security and disarmament chief Anatoly Antonov and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller for their efforts to negotiate a follow-on to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that would establish lower, verifiable limits on strategic deployed warheads and delivery vehicles. See

Or, you can write in a candidate, but you can only vote once.

Click here to vote!

Past winners include (2008) Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry’s Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad , and (2007) U.S. Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio)

I am shocked, and appalled, that Barack Obama is nominated, let alone leading in the early votes.

Look, I voted for Obama for President and desperately want to see him succeed — but he hasn’t done anything yet. He gave a nice speech in Prague. He secured passage of a constructive Security Council Resolution (1887). But the big ticket items — START, CTBT and the Nuclear Posture Review are not done and, frankly, the early signs are not very encouraging. .

I know, Obama’s early days have been complicated by financial collapse, multiple wars and a bunch of tea-baggers who have burrowed into the Executive Branch and hijacked the Congressional GOP. I have every expectation that Barack Obama will figure out how to deal with these challenges. And, when he does, I will happily vote for him as Arms Control Person of the Year. But he hasn’t, at least not yet.

As for my vote, it was a tough call. But since my vote has a protest quality to it, I narrowed to two candidates: Senators Richard Lugar and Patrick Leahy.

A vote for Senator Richard Lugar is appealing because he is nominated for helping Russia begin to neutralize stocks of chemical weapons. In a year when a US President wins the Nobel Peace Prize for talking about eliminating weapons, I want to reward someone for actually doing just that.

A vote for Patrick Leahy, on the other hand, is sheer protest. Leahy’s advocacy is admirable, but in truth I recoil at the idea of naming Barack Obama “Arms Control Person of the Year” in the same year his Administration announced that it would not sign the Landmine Treaty — subsequent backpeddling not withstanding.

It was a difficult call, but in the end, I voted for Senator Richard Lugar. The vote contains enough protest at the premature accolades to sate me, while nonetheless rewarding a worthy person with a lifetime of leadership on these issues for a genuine achievement in its own right — the destruction of thousands of abhorrent weapons.


  1. MaggieL (History)

    “[T]ea-baggers who have burrowed into the Executive Branch and hijacked the Congressional GOP”? Haven’t seen any evidence of Teaparty people in our Executive branch. They’re also called “citizens”, by the way.

    Looks like New America Foundation —“my opinions only” disclaimers aside — has completely given up any pretense to all that “post-partisan” stuff, now that their guy is in a year in office and needs a scapegoat…

  2. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Maggie L.

    It was hyperbole, to make light of the tendency to scapegoat that you cite.

    The whole birther/tea-bagger thing seems to lack of any sense of humor at all.

  3. weaponeer

    Me – I’m holding out for the results of the swimsuit competition. Really – Arms Control Person of the Year? What will they think of next?

  4. archjr (History)

    What, no ElBaradei?

    No comment.

  5. sineva (History)

    >>The intelligence services of Britain, France, and the United States for successfully identifying Iran’s clandestine effort to build the Fordow Nuclear Enrichment Plant near Qom, which raised further questions regarding the purpose of Iran’s program and led to the application of IAEA safeguards at the site.

    Is that supposed to be a joke??
    because if it is it should read:A big thank you to agent Maxwell Smart of Control for foiling that dasterdly a-rab plot to take over the free world!.

  6. DS (History)

    I think ACA needs to do a better job of laying out the criteria for nomination, seeing as five of the eleven nominees are groups of organizations or states and another two are two people — leaving only three who could arguably qualify as “Person of the Year.”

    As for my vote, I would abstain because there have been no notable arms control accomplishments this year. Sen. Lugar certainly deserves recognition for championing cooperative threat reduction, but it is unfortunate that his nomination comes on the heels of the withdrawal of U.S. support for Schuch’ye and a general refocusing of the program away from tangible disarmament activities in Russia.

    I was sad to see that Pakistan’s representative in Geneva, Zamir Akram, didn’t get a nod. Though it looks like the move may have been a mistake on his part, Pakistan didn’t block the Conference on Disarmament from adopting a work program that included a fissile material cut-off treaty.

  7. archjr (History)

    Didn’t mean to sound snippy about ElBaradei, but a future thread could usefully examine and instruct us as to his legacy, which has covered perhaps most of the controversies surrounding the IAEA, prescribe some paths the Agency might take, and help us place its role in the proper context given the fertile ground that is arms control at this point.