Friday, January 07, 2011

The Next Nuclear Arms Treaty

That's the currently popular topic at arms-control websites. I'm not fond of predicting the future or telling others what to do, so I haven't followed the discussion closely. For one example, Jeffrey Lewis wants the total numbers of nuclear weapons to be central in the next negotiations. The Russians have more tactical nukes, while we have more nukes in reserve that could be loaded up onto missiles. Counting all the nukes isn't a bad idea, and as the numbers come down, it becomes more important. A few thousand tactical or stored nukes doesn't make a lot of difference if you've got ten thousand on missiles, but now we're getting down to 1550 strategic nukes. And New START begins to count warheads as well as delivery vehicles, so we're headed in that direction.

What I found more interesting, however, was an article by a former United States Senator, a former Russian Foreign Minister, and a former German ambassador. Interesting simply because of the fact of their getting together to write such an article, and interesting for the directions it goes in:
· increasing assured warning and decision times for the launch of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles;

· developing cooperative missile-defense and early-warning systems;

· ensuring the highest possible standards of security for nuclear weapons and materials;

· beginning a dialogue on tactical nuclear weapons involving Russia, the US, and NATO;

· adopting a process to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into effect;

· developing international and multilateral approaches to manage the risks of fuel production for civilian nuclear power; and

· further reductions in US and Russian nuclear forces.
What it does is to bring additional parties, particularly Europe and NATO, into the discussion early on. Addressing tactical and stored nukes is something that either Russia or the US will resist. So begin with issues that are more likely to find common ground. Defang the missile defense issue, a political problem in the US and a sore point for Russia after the unilateral US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

There's a potential in this agenda for confidence-building between Russia and NATO and for improving both Russia's and the US's standing relative to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In fact, the potential is for lots of win all around before getting to the thornier issues.

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