Eliminate nukes

The United States and Russia have reached an agreement on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty that will limit their nuclear arsenal to 1,550 warheads within the next seven years. This is 74 per cent lower than the number of warheads each was allowed under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and 30 per cent lower than that permitted by the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The agreement limits missiles and bombers to around 700 each. It includes a new verification mechanism that will ensure the ‘irreversibility, verifiability and transparency’ of the reduction process. The cuts in nuclear arsenal that the US and Russia have agreed to is substantial and the two countries must be applauded for their bold moves. And yet, this is not enough. Both countries still have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over. Thus what the agreement has achieved is only a good beginning, which must be followed through with more drastic cuts until the world is down to zero nuclear weapons. The agreement is an important achievement in President Barack Obama’s arms control agenda. He needs to change that agenda to total nuclear disarmament.

While the nuclear arms reduction agreement is a landmark achievement, it might be too early to uncork the champagne bottles. The US and Russia are interpreting the agreement differently with US officials saying that it does not restrict their right to pursue missile defence programmes. Russia has said that it will walk out of the treaty if the US persists with setting up missile defences in eastern Europe.

US officials have said that the nuclear arms reduction agreement will send out a powerful signal to the rest of the world of US commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. It will not, so long as some countries, including the US continue to see nuclear weapons as an important part of their strategy. Expecting other countries to give up their nuclear weapons or not aspire for nuclear weapons is unfair when a few get to keep their nuclear arsenal. It is only when the US, Russia and others stop producing more and smarter nuclear weapons, whether offensive or defensive, and bring their arsenal down to zero that the rest of the world will be convinced. The NPT Review Conference is due in a couple of months. Will the nuclear weapon powers commit themselves then to a deadline for getting rid of their nuclear weapons?

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