Former CIA official speaks about monitoring nuclear agreements

Meara Isenberg

As nuclear tensions between the United States and North Korea grow, Wednesday was an opportune time for former CIA official John Lauder to visit UT to speak about monitoring nuclear agreements.

Lauder shared his 33 years of experience with a full lecture room in the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The event was part of the Intelligence Studies Project and the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project in partnership with the Strauss Center and the Clements Center.

Lauder said the successful monitoring of nuclear agreements is not going to happen by itself.

“It requires leadership,” Lauder said. “It requires engagement, but there are these practices from the past that can help us inform those decisions.”

Understanding other countries is essential due to current capabilities and challenges with nuclear agreements our country faces, Lauder said.

“Good agreements have to be grounded on ‘What’s the next step on the chessboard?’” Lauder said. “What if Iran cheats? What if North Korea gets into another agreement and cheats again? How do we deal with this?”

Relating the past to the present, he said the current challenges we face with Iran and North Korea are in some ways more complex than those we faced in the Cold War.

“In the Cold War, we had the United States, and we had the Soviet Union,” Lauder said. “We sort of understood each other. We knew what their capabilities were. Now (we) have four nuclear powers. North Korea, the United States, Russia and China, and they all have a stake.”

However, there are new innovations providing transparency that were not available in the 1900s.

Still, he said there are still barriers to transparency, citing social media as one.

“In the era of fake news, it’s easy if you’re trying to deceive somebody about the nature of your program to introduce false information,” Lauder said.

The lecture concluded with loud applause from the crowd which included Austin resident Dan Wojcik, whose interest in current events brought him onto the UT campus.

“I’m a concerned citizen,” Wojcik said. “This could get out of control. I like to be informed so I can inform other people who may not be.”

American Studies freshman Emma Robinson said she describes herself as generally unfamiliar with many nuclear agreements, but the lecture led to thought-provoking moments.

“He said we should work with our opponents rather than against them,” Robinson said. “That’s very true to how to bring about change.”