172 1. Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) include nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. During the Cold War, the United States and Russia built up arsenals of nuclear weapons. To ensure that nuclear weapons did not proliferate, or spread rapidly, many nations signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. However, the treaty does not guarantee that nuclear weapons will not be used. Four nations have not signed the treaty, and other nations, such as Iran and North Korea, are suspected of buying and selling nuclear weapons even though they are treaty members. Stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union are a special concern. This is because the Russian government has not had money to secure the weapons properly.
In the 2000s, terrorist groups and "rogue states" began to use WMDs for their own purposes. Terrorism is the use of violence, especially against civilians, to achieve political goals. Terrorist groups use headline-grabbing tactics to draw attention to their demands. Regional terrorist groups, such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), operated for decades. They commit bombings, shootings, and kidnappings to force their governments to change policies. Increasingly, the Middle East has become a training ground and source for terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism motivates many of these groups. One powerful Islamic fundamentalist group is al Qaeda, whose leader is Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda terrorists were responsible for the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Al Qaeda's attacks triggered a global reaction. Fighting terrorism became a central goal of both national and international policies. In 2001, Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders were living in Afghanistan. When Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalist leaders, the Taliban, refused to surrender the terrorists, the United States attacked Afghanistan and overthrew them. Because President Bush believed that Saddam Hussein of Iraq was secretly producing WMD's the United States also declared war on Iraq. IN ADDITION, INCREASED SECURITY AT HOME BECAME A PRIORITY. As a result, the United States created a new Department of Homeland Security and instituted more rigorous security measures at airports and public buildings.
1. Why are nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union a special concern?