Sunday, April 11, 2010

US, Russia Sign New Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty

The United States and Russia signed a new nuclear arms reduction treaty on 8 April, marking a first step in US President Barack Obama's comprehensive strategy toward a world without nuclear weapons. The new START Treaty was signed by US President Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Prague.
Although the signing of the treaty came after the expiration of START1 (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the fact that both countries managed to reach an agreement that could be a milestone for future nuclear arms reductions in one year showed the underlying strength and determination of the Obama administration regarding the reduction of nuclear arsenals. However, the road to the complete abolition of nuclear weapons is still very long and steep.

Tactical Nuclear Weapons
The new treaty reduces the current maximum number of strategic nuclear warheads that can be deployed by 30 percent. But Daryl Kimbal, executive director of the Arms Control Association, says: 'Undeployed nuclear warheads, tactical nuclear weapons, and other elements of nuclear arms stockpiles must also be reduced.' More than 20,000 nuclear weapons will still exist in the world.

In line with the United States' Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) announced on 6 April, Obama said at his news conference that after the new nuclear arms control treaty goes into effect, he intended to pursue further nuclear arms negotiations with Russia targeting all nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons and undeployed nuclear warheads. However, Russia is still deeply distrustful about the United States' Missile Defense (MD) plans -- some voices in Russia suggesting that Russia would withdraw from the new treaty if the United States expands its MD program in Europe -- and uncertainty shadows any future negotiations.

The NPR also declared that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against any nonnuclear country that obeys the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). But in regards to countries, particularly with Iran and North Korea in mind, that violate the obligation not to proliferate nuclear arms, the NPR also concluded that the United States could not renounce the option to use nuclear weapons against such countries. Even if progress is made in greatly reducing nuclear arms, the reality in the world is that nations are unable to commit to 'zero nuclear arms.'

International Community's Responsibility
What the Obama administration is looking at beyond the new nuclear arms reduction agreement is the issue of nuclear nonproliferation. The most important issue now is preventing Iran's nuclear development, which could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The spread of nuclear weapons technology and nuclear-related materials by North Korea is also a pressing problem. The offensive in 2009 by the armed Taliban Islamic fanatics in Pakistan suddenly gave a new reality to the nightmare of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.

At the nuclear security summit to be held in Washington on 12-13 April, the Obama administration will raise discussion on the creation of a system to secure and control nuclear materials to prevent nuclear terrorism. At the NPT Review Conference to be held in May, the White House will also urge a restructuring of provisions for strengthening measures that can be taken when countries violating the NPT declare they are withdrawing from the treaty.

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