Shall we label 2012 as The Year of Waiting?

The fourth year of a U.S. presidential term is usually marked by the absence of big initiatives and the presence of partisan gridlock. This year was no exception. Compound this with leadership transitions in Russia and China, add extended economic duress in the European Union, and what have you got? Not much with respect to positive movement related to the Bomb.

A year of waiting for substantive engagement with Tehran while Iran’s leaders continue to spin centrifuges.

A year of non-engagement with the DPRK’s new kingpin as he puts his own team in place and sends a satellite into orbit.

A year of fumbling in South Asia marked by the inability of political leaders to govern effectively. Some bright spots, especially the liberalization of visa requirements and stated intentions to increase cross-border trade. Otherwise, improved bilateral relations are being slow-walked by leaders facing national elections. On the nuclear front, diplomacy took a back seat to bomb building. Pakistan and India extended the duration of some nuclear risk-reduction measures, a weak damper to growing nuclear arsenals.

In the Middle East, it was a year of turmoil in the Arab world, while the Israeli government planned to extend settlements that will undermine its security. The initiation of discussions on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction was postponed.

It was a year in which the regime of Bashar Al-Assad continued to disintegrate with stocks of chemical weapons.

A year in which the European Union dropped the ball in advancing an International Code of Conduct for outer space.

A year waiting for Pakistan to lift its hold on FMCT negotiations.

A year in which the “sweeteners” for New START and the CTBT turned sour with U.S. budget deficits, making it harder to sway skeptical Senators to support new treaties.

A year in which Vladimir Putin announced his disinterest in extending Nunn-Lugar and his interest in MIRVed, liquid-fuelled missiles.

In other words, not a good year for dealing with nuclear dangers. A year when diplomatic engagement did not begin to do justice to the problems at hand. A year of waiting.

By my reckoning, there will be less waiting in 2013 with respect to Iran, but plenty more on other fronts.