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Obama Administration Faces Instability in Key Nuclear Nations

Nuclear tests in North Korea, violence in Pakistan and a diplomatic stalemate with Iran has complicated nuclear diplomacy for the U.S. Former Carter official Zbigniew Brzezinski and Philip Zelikow, foreign adviser under President Bush, consider the new world.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    To add to the administration's nuclear proliferation pressures this week came new defiant words from Iran's President Ahmadinejad. Once again, he warned the U.S. and the West not to interfere with Tehran's nuclear development program.

    How can the American president deal with the challenges and dangers of this new nuclear world?

    For that, we turn to Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser during the Carter administration, now counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Philip Zelikow, former counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and now a professor of history at the University of Virginia.

    And welcome to you both. Professor Brzezinski, has any American president ever faced nuclear proliferation challenges on this many fronts at once?

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, Former National Security Adviser to President Carter: No, I have to say that that hasn't happened before. And it's quite ominous, and it emphasizes the importance of the United States doing what it can to work with other states in responding to this.

    It may come to the point that the United States has to respond alone — for example, if South Korea and Japan were in danger, because we are committed as an ally to these two countries.

    But as a general proposition, the more we can work with other states in responding, the better it will be, the more likely we can handle it, and, of course, the less likely that we'll be engaged in a prolonged and solitary conflict.