Last night I turned on CBS TV news to see what they were saying about the Obama-Medvedev summit on reducing nuclear weapons. The first ten-minutes of the show was about the coming funeral and memorial service for Michael Jackson and the legions of people who tried to get tickets to the memorial that will be held inside a basketball arena.
Finally the story came and went about the nuclear negotiations. Not much to it.
The current START-1 treaty between the US and Russia expires on December 5. Obama and Medvedev agreed in principal to cut deployed nuclear warheads from current levels to somewhere around 1,500-1,675 each. Still more than enough to bounce the rubble after a nuclear exchange.
According to an analysis piece posted by the Reuters news agency, the cuts announced on Monday only take the US and Russia 25 operationally deployed warheads below a range of 1,700-2,200, which both sides had previously committed to reach by 2012.
So modest is indeed the watch word here to describe this new deal.
Both sides are still working out what exactly constitutes a nuclear weapon and the whole “missile defense” ghost still remains in the room. The two leaders were also unable to resolve the contentious issue over reductions in missile launchers and bombers.
The Washington Post reported that “The Russian military is worried that the launchers and bombers could be used to quickly rebuild the US nuclear arsenal and would pose a threat to Russian forces even if armed with non-nuclear warheads [the prompt global strike system that the Pentagon has been talking about lately].”
I listened to the whole news conference yesterday that Obama and Medvedev held to outline their agreements. In the end this deal does not show the world that the US and Russia have made a serious commitment to get rid of their nuclear weapons thus setting an example for others to follow. If they think that states like Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel, or North Korea are going to be moved to shut down their nuclear programs, while the US and Russia maintain 1,500 or more nuclear warheads then they are indeed wrong.
There doesn’t appear to be an understanding on either side that “Global Zero” does not mean a couple thousand nukes.
Sadly the military industrial complex in both countries still can’t bear to give up their nuclear security blanket. They will though likely continue to press others to do what they are so far unwilling to do – and that is to honor the UN’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which calls on all nuclear powers to disarm now.