Friday, April 09, 2010

Obama hails nuclear treaty as new era in relations with Russia.

Obama has hailed it as a new era in relations between the US and Russia, which it is, but the obvious thorn in the side is the US missile defence system.

After signing the strategic arms reduction treaty (Start) in Prague, Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev spoke warmly of their relationship, and looked forward to further arms control negotiations.

It was clear, however, that differences remained, particularly over the issue of US missile defence installations in eastern Europe. Medvedev called the Start agreement "historic" and a "win-win situation" for both countries. But he added the treaty "can be viable only provided there are no quantitative or qualitative increases in ABM (anti-ballistic missile) capabilities".

Standing alongside Medvedev in Prague Castle, Obama insisted the US missile defence plans were "not directed at changing the strategic balance between the US and Russia" but rather at protecting the American people from emerging threats such as Iran.

A senior American official said that before the signing the two leaders "talked about missile defence in more substance" and there were plans for detailed negotiations aimed at removing it as an obstacle to further arms control talks.

Obama can give whatever reason he likes for maintaining a missile defence system, but it won't wash. The whole idea of nuclear weapons, as I remember the way the argument used to go, was mutually assured destruction. No-one could fire the bloody things without ensuring their own annihilation. If one side has a nuclear shield then that increases the fantasy that nuclear war could be survived by the side possessing the shield.

The shield, therefore, becomes a weapon of aggression. It stops the playing field from being level.

Obama bringing up the defence that he wants such a shield to protect the US from Iranian nuclear weapons, gives one the feeling that he is repeating what he said to Russia before: Get rid of any hint of an Iranian nuclear weapon and I will get rid of the shield.

But, leaving aside the thorny issue of the nuclear shield, there is much to be applauded in the deal.

The Start treaty limits each side to 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons deployed and ready to fire, and to 700 deployed delivery systems (missiles and heavy bombers).

Obama described the agreement as "just one step on a longer journey" which would set the stage for further cuts. He said he hoped future negotiations would include tactical, short-range weapons, and the thousands of non-deployed weapons which together represent the bulk of both countries' arsenals. Before going further, both leaders will have to get the treaty ratified by their national legislatures. Medvedev said he wanted ratification to be synchronised, implying the Russian Duma would not vote on the Start treaty before the US Senate.

Obama should sell this as realising Reagan's dream, as this is the only way he is going to get the Party of No anywhere near ratifying this.

The reaction on the right of the political spectrum has, so far, been predictably hysterical.

This needs to be countered, and there is no better way of doing so than by tying it into Reagan's vision as expressed by his wife Nancy:
“Ronnie had many hopes for the future, and none were more important to America and to mankind than the effort to create a world free of nuclear weapons.”
The Republicans should be forced to denounce Reagan if they want to denounce this treaty.

Click here for full article.

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