Friday, December 3, 2010

New Start Treaty Blocked by Republicans

In recent weeks a controversy has erupted between supporters of the New Start Treaty and those opposed to the Treaty. The New Start Treaty is a negotiated agreement between the United States and Russia to continue with reductions in the size of the arsenals of nuclear weapons held by each side. It would renew a treaty (Start Treaty) which was proposed by Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1982, signed by Pres. George H. W. Bush in 1991, and entered into force in 1994.

The New Start Treaty has already been signed by Pres. Obama, but still must be ratified by the US Senate.

In the US, those who are advocating a "trust but verify" attitude towards the Russian nuclear weapons program, are being opposed by those who would promote a strategy of American "strength above all".

Advocates of the Treaty point to the importance of reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons being held in Russian and American arsenals, both as a means of limiting the danger of accidental nuclear war and as an important part of ongoing efforts to reduce the threat of nuclear weapon proliferation. They also point out that the Treaty continues with an essential regimen of mutual inspections of nuclear weapons sites.

Those who are opposed to the Treaty believe that it is generally disadvantageous for the United States to enter into arms control agreements with Russia, since Russia is by far the weaker power, both militarily and economically.

On the one hand is a group of Democrats led by Pres. Barack Obama. This group is supported by US Defense Sec. Gates and top brass in the Pentagon, by NATO member states and commanders, and by Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

The opposition group is made up of Republican senators led by Jon Kyl of Arizona, and apparently by North Korean leaders and by Sigfried Hecker, a past Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Pres. Obama appears to believe that the New Start Treaty is an essential step along the road toward eventual world-wide nuclear disarmament. In this regard, he would say that it is not only necessary to continue to reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons held in the arsenals of the US and Russia, and this in a matched and verifiable way, but also to continue to disincentivize attempts by presently non-nuclear states to develop their own nuclear weapons.

Sen. Kyl appears to feel that it is essential for the US to maintain a vast military superiority over Russia, and for this reason it is necessary to force from the US Congress guarantees of increased spending for the US nuclear weapons program. He also seems to be generally suspicious of any attempt to enter into arms control agreements with Russia.

Meanwhile, militaristic and paranoid North Korean leaders continue to grow their nuclear weapons program and to boast to the world about their accomplishments in this area. Recently, they invited American nuclear weapons expert Sig. Hecker to inspect their new uranium enrichment plant, which they proudly displayed to him. Having been duly impressed, Hecker returned to the US and launched into a media tour in which he presented himself as being astounded at the scale of the North Korean achievement. However, Hecker is a perennial advocate of more money for the American nuclear weapons program and the recent signatory of a letter criticizing American attempts to limit the size of developments to that program.

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