Sunday, November 16, 2008

Making progress on nuclear nonproliferation

Strobe Talbott in America's New Agenda International Politik Fall 2008 address the need for the incoming administration to push forward on nuclear nonproliferation:

The next US administration may find that it has more political running room than its predecessors to negotiate with Moscow on nuclear weapons levels - and the closer to zero the better.

The United States should also resume negotiations with Russia on antimissile missiles. More than 40 years ago, American statesmen persuaded their Soviet counterparts that the most dangerous - not to mention most expensive - kind of arms race is one in which each side tries to deflect the other’s spears with an elaborate array of shields. In signing the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, the Soviet Union reluctantly accepted that logic.

Then-President Ronald Reagan, however, did not. Even though he left the ABM treaty intact, he gave political respectability to the scientifically and strategically dubious notion that a space-based super shield could make nuclear-tipped spears "impotent and obsolete." In 2002, Bush pulled the United States out of the ABM treaty. Unless the next administration comes up with new, negotiated means of averting an unregulated offence-defense competition, we are likely to see Russia and China respond by deploying additional intercontinental missiles and taking a variety of measures to overwhelm, penetrate, and blind US defenses. There could eventually be a similar trend among potential nuclear weapons states. [my emphasis]
And he reminds us that there are more and more countries becoming part of this nuclear arms race:

The 1990s, the first post-Cold War decade, could turn out also to have been a prelude to the post-NPT era, and it will be one of nuclear anarchy. Today there are nine countries with nuclear weapons: the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and, presumptively, Israel. Over the next decade or so, though, a dozen or more other countries might blast their way into the club. The bilateral animosities that might trigger "small" nuclear wars already include India-Pakistan and North Korea-US. In the relatively near future, that list could include Iran-Israel, Israel-Egypt, Iran-Egypt, Iran-Saudi Arabia, and China-Taiwan.
The more countries that become members of the nuclear club, the harder it will be to move the world in the direction of the elimination of nuclear weapons. I hope to see Obama's administration put a major, major emphasis on this task.

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