Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was formed to increase international
cooperation in interdicting shipments of weapons of mass destruction
(WMD), their delivery systems, and related materials. The Initiative was
announced by President Bush on May 31, 2003. PSI does not create a new
legal framework but aims to use existing national authorities and international
law to achieve its goals. Initially, 11 nations signed on to the “Statement
of Interdiction Principles” that guides PSI cooperation. As of May 2012,
98 countries (plus the Holy See) have committed formally to the PSI
principles, although the extent of participation may vary by country. PSI has no
secretariat, but an Operational Experts Group (OEG), made up of 21 PSI
participants, coordinates activities.
Although WMD interdiction efforts took place with international cooperation
before PSI was formed, supporters argue that PSI training exercises and
boarding agreements give a structure and expectation of cooperation that
will improve interdiction efforts. Many observers believe that PSI’s “strengthened
political commitment of like-minded states” to cooperate on interdiction is a successful
approach to counter-proliferation policy. But some caution that it may be difficult
to measure the initiative’s effectiveness, guarantee even participation,
or sustain the effort over time in the absence of a formal multilateral
framework. Others support expanding membership and improving
inter-governmental and U.S. interagency coordination as the best way to improve
the program. President Obama in an April 2009 speech said that PSI should
be turned into a “durable international institution.” The Administration’s
2010 Nuclear Security Strategy said it would work to turn PSI into a “durable
international effort.” The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review included PSI as a
key part of the policy to impede sensitive nuclear trade.
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