Farewell to Arms Reduction Treaties?

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Please see the trenchant analysis and commentary below by Alicia Godsberg, the new Executive Director of Peace Action of New York State, in response to an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times.

Dear Colleagues,

Below is the text of an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times by SIPA professor James Rubin. I do not necessarily agree that the age of the international treaty is over, but I absolutely DO agree that the money being promised to the NNSA for nuclear weapons research and “modernization” efforts is a high and unnecessary price to pay for achieving the modest cuts to nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in the New START treaty. If President G.W. Bush could eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons unilaterally – and get the Russians to do the same in return – with his Presidential Nuclear Initiatives that did NOT need Senate approval, why is President Obama not pursuing more aggressive cuts in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems (along with new similar mutual agreements on verification) on his own? Does he think this money will buy CTBT ratification too? This is a dangerous strategy, one that seems to be hitting snags even as it tries to get going in the Senate.
Senator Kyl and friends are the reason why I doubt the incremental approach to nuclear arms control. However, we find ourselves feeling like we have to support New START so that more meaningful cuts can come in the future. Maybe drastic cuts can ONLY come by cutting out the middle – cutting out the elected officials who don’t want to close laboratories or bases in their districts or states – and having a visionary President act boldly. As this article says, funding NNSA will end up undermining President Obama’s stated goal of working toward a world free of nuclear weapons and the U.S.’s obligation to work toward nuclear disarmament (in article VI of the NPT); in so doing, the U.S. ends up also undermining the efforts of the international community to pressure states to live up to their own NPT nonproliferation obligations.
So, we are pushing for ratification of the New START treaty and hoping that we can fight each appropriation for nuclear weapons research and modernization capability as they reach Congress over the coming years – we have our work cut out for us either way.
In peace,
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